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Volume IV 


G. G. BERRY, B.A. 









Co tijc 






.r-' f~ . - f;-~\ i 


In bringing to a close the publication of this work, begun 
more than a decade and a half ago, I find myself compelled 
to justify certain modifications of my original plans. The 
Preface to the second volume has already called attention 
to the impracticability, as it turned out, of including in that 
volume (Vols. I J. and III. in the English Edition) the 
treatment of Aristotle and his successors. As the work 
progressed, however, a still more fundamental change of 
design has forced itself upon me. It became necessary 
to restrict the work, which had now reached its allotted 
number of volumes, within narrower limits of subject- 
matter. At the outset it had been my desire to carry 
the history of Greek philosophy down to the beginning 
of our era ; but gradually it became manifest to me that 
with the first quarter of the third century before Christ 
a more appropriate terminus would be attained. This was 
an epoch at which the development of the special sciences 
reached a height which essentially changed their relations 
to philosophy. Though here and there an isolated writer 
appeared who took the whole of learning for his pro- 
vince, such as the Stoic Posidonius (first century B.C.), 
we are entitled to affirm that on the whole philosophy 
and the special sciences henceforth pursued separate paths. 
Universal science — the main object of this work^ — dis- 
appeared as such ; the centre of gravity of scientific 
progress was transferred to the subordinate branches (ci. 
pp. 459 and 506). 


The chronological h'mit thus indicated has on the whole 
been reached. The matter still wanting to its complete 
attainment, the description of the beginnings of the Stoic 
and Epicurean schools, and of the Sceptic movement, the 
author hopes to supply in a separate book, TJie Philosophy 
of the Hellenistic Age, in which anticipatory glances will 
also be cast upon the later periods. 



May\ 1909. 

On August 29, 191 2, when the last sheets of this volume 
were passing through the press, Dr. Theodor Gomperz 
died, almost at the moment when he had finished the 
revision of the final proofs. 

It is matter for sincere regret that he did not live 
to see the publication of this English edition, on which 
he bestowed infinite pains, but which has been long 
delayed, owing to circumstances over which neither the 
author nor the publisher had control. 

I am informed by his representatives that at the time 
of his death, Dr. Gomperz had not been able to make 
any considerable progress with the writing of the con- 
templated volume on the Philosophy of the Hellenistic 
Age, referred to in the last sentence of the foregoing- 
Preface, and that therefore there is now no hope of its 


19/// Sept., 1912. 





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" Is enim ut est diligentissimus in cognoscendis rebus singulis 
quarum ingentem prorsus et prope incredibilem animo complexus 
est scientiam, ut est acutus et ingeniosus in redigendis his singulis 
rebus ad summas, quas distinxit, omnium entium categorias : ita 
quum de iaciendis altissimis doctrinal fundamentis et de confir- 
mandis interque se conciliandis principiis agitur, plurimum relinquit 
dubitationis." — Hermann Bonitz. 



I. Plato's successors drew their sustenance from the 
heritage of his later years. The freshness and vigour — 
the youthful vigour, we had almost said — of the great 
philosopher's old age manifested itself in impulses which 
for well-nigh a century dominated the activities of his 
school. Even within this period, it is true, we can trace 
the operation of that law, fundamental for the development 
of the Platonic school, by which the master's different 
phases of thought enjoyed successive supremacy. But 
it was not till near its close that any real change took 
place. From that point onward the teaching of Plato's 
old age ceased to inspire the labours of those who suc- 
ceeded to the headship of his school. The dialectics of 
refutation, the Elenctic primarily due to Socrates, awoke 
to new life after long repression ; and its reappearance 


marks the beginning of the Middle Academy, which took 
its rise with the Sceptic Arcesilaus. 

Plato committed the direction of the Academy to his 
sister's son Speusippiis, who held it for eight years (347- 
339). The figure of the nephew is to some extent lost 
in the shadow of his mighty uncle ; in ancient as in 
modern times his significance has perhaps been rated 
unduly low. It lies, if we are not mistaken, in his having 
been the first to carry forward the line of thought entered 
upon in the " Sophist " and the " Statesman." His chief 
work consisted of ten books on "Similarities" ('Ofioia) 
in which, following the thread of analogy, he surveyed the 
whole realm of plants and animals, endeavouring to set 
like by the side of like, while separating those organisms 
whose affinity rested on appearance only, and not on truth. 
Expression is here given to the same classificatory instinct 
which marks the two Platonic dialogues just named, and 
which attained its richest development in Aristotle. 

Speusippus may thus be regarded as Aristotle's prede- 
cessor. A further link between the two is the strength of 
their common interest in the whole length and breadth 
of the world of experience, not least of all in the sphere 
of human affairs — a disposition of mind which brought 
Speusippus into close relations with wide circles of Syra- 
cusan society, and led Timonides to address to him his 
narrative of Dion's expedition (cf Vol. III. p. 138). This 
reinforcement of the empirical sense may be regarded as 
the leading feature of his thought. Going a little further 
into particulars, we may say that close study of the organic 
world ripened in his mind the idea of development. This 
is plain from what we are told by Aristotle. Speusippus 
refused to set the principle of the Good at the head of 
the world-process, and justified his refusal by pointing 
to individual plants and animals which in the course of 
their existence advance from a less to a more perfect 
state. He thus came to discern, in the prime cause of 
the universe, a formative principle akin to the vital forces 
of the organic world, and by this attitude drew upon himself 
the taunt of atheism. 


With this empirical and inductive tendency there went 
(the reverse side of the medal) a renunciation of every 
kind of dialectic except the purely classificatory ; nor did 
this kind escape profound modification. No reverence for 
his great uncle deterred Speusippus from rejecting the 
Platonic doctrine of Ideas. For all labours in the field 
of definition he showed as little respect as Antisthenes. 
Like the latter, he was manifestly unwilling to admit 
the distinction between essential and accidental attributes. 
" He who would define one thing rightly must know every- 
thing ; for the definition of the one thing presupposes a 
knowledge of all the differences between it and everything 
else." In this connexion we gain a welcome glimpse into 
the peculiar character of his studies in natural history. 
Evidence which is above suspicion ascribes to him the 
rejection of " subdivision and definitions." This rejection, 
however, rested solely on the above objection to the possi- 
bility of adequate definition — an objection warranted by 
no less a person than Eudemus. The conclusion which we 
draw is as follows. Speusippus certainly did not abstain 
from any and every attempt at classification. So much is 
clear from the title of his main work, already referred to, 
as well as from the remnants, scanty as they are, of his 
writings. What he rejected was, as we infer, not classifica- 
tion at large, but that division of natural objects which is 
based on definitions of classes. He was, in other words, 
an opponent of what is now called technical or artificial 
classification, and the first advocate of that mode of forming 
groups which is called by antithesis the " natural system." 
He would have sided with Bernard de Jussieu against 
Linnaius. Of this method, triumphant in our own day, 
the following account has been given by Whewell, in his 
" History of Scientific Ideas " : — 

" The class is steadily fixed, though not precisely limited ; it 
is given, though not circumscribed ; it is determined, not by a 
boundary line without, but by a central point within ; not by 
what it strictly excludes, but by what it eminently includes ; by 
an example, not a precept ; in short, instead of Definition we 
have a Type for our nirectov." 


In the fragments of Speusippus' work such terms as 
"resembling," "like," "similar," are of constant recurrence, 
while there is no trace of sharp delimitation or rigid 
definition. This agrees well with the conclusion stated 
above ; but when we come to the application in detail 
of the fundamental principles, we are left nearly as much 
in the dark as with regard to the arrangement of the 
subject-matter. Lastly, our hypothesis is confirmed by 
a book-title : " On the Patterns or Types of Genera and 
Species." In his endeavours after a natural system, in 
his opposition to the excessive use of twofold subdivision, 
Speusippus is a forerunner of Aristotle. Dichotomy, it 
is true, had already been abandoned by Plato in the 
" Statesman." 

Close study of the endless multiplicity of organic 
structures could not possibly have been favourable to the 
hypothesis which identifies duality or the principle of 
differentiation with the principle of evil. We are thus 
not astonished to find the nephew here again in disaccord 
with the uncle. On the other hand, we cannot but be 
surprised by the records which represent Speusippus as 
nearer in some respects to the Pythagoreans than Plato 
himself. A great deal in these records is untrustworthy 
or inconclusive, but as much as this seems certain — Speu- 
sippus raised numbers to the rank of prime causes of 
things ; like the Pythagoreans, he carried into detail the 
analogies between geometrical and arithmetical relations, 
and among other things raised a hymn of praise which 
has quite a Pythagorean ring to the number Ten. But 
considerations which are not far to seek soon diminish our 
surprise. Plato's quest for fundamental principles, which 
led him into speculations on numbers, started from the 
point at which the Ideas passed into the background of his 
thought. We arc thus prepared to find the same tendency 
accentuated in the work of a pupil, who not merely sub- 
ordinated but abandoned the Ideas. P'or in abandoning 
them he did not at the same time lose hold of that 
fundamental premiss of the Platonic epistemology accord- 
ing to which knowledge would be impossible if there were 


no entities transcending the world of sense. It must, more- 
over, be set down to the credit of Speusippus that he made 
no total surrender to what may be called the analogism of 
he Pythagoreans, but, in relation both to this and to the 
corresponding tendency in Plato, put forth by no means 
contemptible efforts towards sharper distinction of ideas. 
Thus, for him, the point was not identical with unity, 
but only of similar nature ; nor, again, did he identify 
reason with unity and the good, but distinguished it 
from them as something " specifically unique." His 
numerous ethical writings exhibit him as moderate in 
his claims upon life and free from visionary extravagance. 
While reserving the highest place to the virtues, he did 
not deny all value to health, wealth, and other external 

2. The figure of Xenocrates is presented to us in less 
shadowy outline. No favourite of the Graces ; needing 
the spur, not the curb — such are the expressions with which 
Plato himself described the ungracious, reserved, somewhat 
heavy personality of his disciple. It was only by a " bare 
majority " that the students elected him head of the 
Academy after the death of Speusippus. To-day hardly 
even a minority of competent judges would ventuie to 
assign him the rank of a great original thinker. And 
yet his scholarchate, which lasted a quarter of a century 
(339-314), must not be regarded as wholly without signifi- 
cance for the destinies of the Platonic school. An ingenious 
essayist has observed that among princely houses those 
only have established themselves permanently in which 
the founder was followed by an heir who proved a 
diligent custodian of the newly acquired patrimony, and 
administered it for a fair space of time. In philosophic 
dynasties the same rule seems to hold good. Thus 
Theophrastus was such an heir in the Aristotelian school 
and Cleanthes in the Stoic ; in the school of Plato (after 
the short reign of Speusippus) a similar part was played 
by Xenocrates of Chalcedon, whose fidelity to the master 
was greater than even that of his own sister's son. It is 
true that in one respect, doubtless to the advantage of the 


school, he trod other paths than those of the founder. 
The alien settler in Athens found the democratic con- 
stitution of his adopted home more congenial than it had 
been to the aristocratically-minded descendant of Attic 
kings. He enjoyed the confidence of the people, and 
after the unfortunate ending of the Lamian war was 
elected a member of the embassy which treated with the 
Macedonian regent, Antipater. During the occupation 
of Munychia by a Macedonian garrison (B.C. 322) he 
showed his patriotic grief by omitting the usual sacrifices 
to the Muses at the Academy. Lastly, he refused the 
grant of citizenship, offered him by Demades, on the 
ground that it would be shameful for him to accept a 
share in a constitution, imposed by Macedonian lances, 
to resist whose introduction the people had deputed him 
to Antipater. 

Xenocrates was commended to the Athenian people 
not merely by the warmth of his patriotism and the 
universally acknowledged blamelessness of his life, but also 
by the marked independence which he showed in his 
relations to the great. When Alexander placed a con- 
siderable sum of money at his disposal, he invited the 
messenger charged with the gift to the common table. 
Pointing to the simplicity of the meal and the inexpensive 
mode of life usual at the Academy, he declined the royal 
bounty ; or rather, by accepting a small fraction of it, took 
off the edge of a refusal that otherwise might have seemed 
insulting or defiant. His attitude towards religion, too, 
was such as to bring him nearer to the heart of the people. 
He was a forerunner of the Stoic school (whose founder, 
by the way, was one of his pupils) in what the ancients 
called " adaptation " {awoiKUMcyu:)^ an abstract interpreta- 
tion of mythical tales and symbols well suited to bridge 
the gulf between philosophy and popular beliefs. Indeed, 
he went so far as to modify the late Platonic doctrine of 
numbers in an anthropomorphic sense by assigning to the 
principles of unity and duality the characters, respectively, 
of male and female divine principles — a new instance of 
the tendency, which we have already noticed in the case 


of the Mcgarian Euclides and the aged Plato, to an atavism 
by which metaphysical entities revert to the theological 
type (cf. Vol. II. p. 174; Vol, III. p. 173). Similarly, in 
the deification of natural forces, he went further than 
the star-gods of his master, and, lastly, he imagined count- 
less hosts of dsemons mediating between the gods and 
men. In this demonology, following the precedent of 
the evil world-soul in the " Laws," he did not shrink from 
admitting spirits that plague and torment. Here, espe- 
cially, we find him at a vast distance from the pride 
of intellect characteristic of true Socratism, and swayed 
by the ineradicable instincts of the popular mind. 

Whether Xenocrates counted among the daemons souls 
not yet incarnated or souls severed from their bodies, is 
a question that cannot be answered with full certainty. 
More important is his definition of the soul, applied by 
him to the world-soul as well as to the souls of human 
individuals : A number which moves itself. We rub our 
eyes on reading this marvellous definition for the first time. 
Well might Aristotle call it " the summit of absurdity." 
But at the same time he elucidated, aptly if not exhaus- 
tively, the currents of thought which brought it into being. 
On the " self-movement " we need waste no words. The 
reader is familiar to satiety with the doctrine of the 
" Phaedrus " and the " Laws " that all motion is of psychic 
origin (cf. Vol. III. p. 45, seq.). Besides holding this 
doctrine, Xenocrates desired to lay emphasis on the cog- 
nitive function of the soul. Now, number was regarded 
as typically the most abstract, and therefore the purest and 
most exalted object of knowledge. Herewith was joined 
the ancient doctrine of the essential similarity between the 
knowcr and the known. Just as for Empcdocles earth was 
known by earth and discord by discord (Vol. I. p. 246), 
so here it may be, some share in the nature of number was 
ascribed to that by which number is known. Perhaps, 
also, the following consideration may assist towards the 
understanding of this curiosity in definitions. If we suppose 
that Xenocrates wished to describe the soul as something 
that knows and that moves itself, he would have had a 


difficulty in specifying this something more precisely with- 
out at the same time suggesting erroneous ideas. It was 
important to prevent the soul being imagined as material, 
as extended in space, or even as a composite product into 
which body entered as well as soul ; such words, therefore, 
as "thing," "living being," perhaps even "being," were 
hardly fit for his use. Turning his back on this region of 
terminology, he lighted on the word " number," which both 
commended itself by its abstractness, and promised to 
express the quantitative relation of the parts of the soul. 
In this latter respect the definition is no more absurd than 
the kindred conception of the soul as a harmony (cf. 
Vol. III. p. 43) ; both are open to Aristotle's objection 
that a harmony is a relation or a mode of composition, 
and presupposes elements which it relates or of which it 
is the synthesis. 

This application of the concept of number is closely 
bound up with that product of Plato's old age which, under 
the name of intelligible or ideal numbers, has provided 
ancient and modern students with so much labour to so 
little purpose. The hint contained in the " Philebus " (cf. 
Vol. III. p. 215) was followed by a fuller exposition in a 
course of lectures " On the Good " which a well-informed 
ancient commentator described as "enigmatic." If the 
immediate successors of Plato were unable to solve these 
riddles satisfactorily, or even to make some approach to 
unanimity as to their solution, how should better success be 
possible for us, to whom the mere statement of the riddles 
is only known through dark and fragmentary allusions.? 
Very little is known with certainty ; for example, that 
those ideal numbers were distinguished from the numbers 
with which we calculate, and that there were not more 
than ten of them. Thus Plato cannot have been concerned 
with numbers in the mathematical sense, but with the 
principles of numbers. In these principles he believed he 
had discovered the fundamental causes of things. Preciser 
information is not within our reach, except with regard to 
the principles of unity and duality, also called the principles 
of indivisibility and divisibility, from the mixture of which 


numbers in the ordinary sense were supposed to take their 
rise — as " unity in multiplicity," to speak with a logician 
of the present age. With this exception, we discover 
nothing but vague analogies. The Pythagoreans had 
adduced parallels between arithmetical and geometrical 
ideas (point and unity, line and duality, surface and 
triplicity, body and quadruplicity, cf. Vol. I. pp. 104, 105) ; 
these were now supplemented by a parallelism dealing 
with the region of knowledge. Pure reason was assimilated 
to unity, knowledge to duality, opinion to triplicity, sense- 
perception to quadruplicity. Such is the account given 
by Aristotle of these speculations. A glimmer of light 
is thrown upon them when we remember that so far back 
as in the " Republic " Plato had paralleled the shadow- 
pictures of mere fallible opinion with the first superficial 
number, three (cf. Vol. III. p. loi). The equation of know- 
ledge with duality seems to rest on the consideration that 
knowledge implies both a something that knows and a 
something that is known ; while pure reason is regarded 
as holding the two elements of subject and object in an 
as yet undivided unity, in the form, it may be, of divine 
self-contemplation. Two principles of arrangement seem 
here to be working at cross purposes. For, while there 
is a plain step downwards from reason to opinion, nothing 
of the kind is visible, at least at first sight, in the relations 
of opinion to sense-perception. Possibly, however, Plato 
might have met this objection by observing that in opinion, 
uncertain and deceptive as it may be, there is yet an 
element of active thought, a reflected flicker of reason ; 
while sense-perception plunges us fathom-deep in the world 
of the unreal, and, as one of the functions of the soul, takes 
its stand nearer to the corporeal and animal sphere than 
docs opinion, which latter estimates and compares the 
impressions of sense. Analogies of this type may be 
spun out to whatever lengths we like ; but they will 
never furnish us, any more than tliey furnished Plato, 
with an Ariadne-clue to lead us out of the labyrinth of 
vague similitudes. Recent attempts to discover in these 
theories anticipations of the most modern school of logical 


mathematicians are, as we think, destitute of any tenable 

In this doctrine Plato indulged, to a greater extent than 
anywhere else, the craving for simplification natural to a 
speculative mind. We have noted how in the " Statesman," 
with a breadth of vision recalling Pleraclitus, he sought to 
identify the powers that rule the moral sphere with those 
that rule the world of nature. In the " Timseus " we have 
seen ethics placed on a cosmic basis, while nature was 
ethicized, and, in the language of the ancient gibe, " mathe- 
maticized." We have witnessed the triumph which was won 
by mathematics in the arena of Plato's mind over a dialectic 
now held in lower regard because of its real or supposed 
misuse. Thus the tendency of thought which, at the in- 
ception of the doctrine of Ideas, made the reality of mathe- 
matical objects an inference from the irrefragable truth of 
mathematical propositions, moved on to complete victory 
(cf. VoL III. pp. 4, 5). With the speculative forces we have 
named there was joined the Pythagorean conception of 
number as not merely the expression but the generator of 
universal law, as the source of all existence, as the highest 
reality (cf. VoL I. p. 104). The last barriers are overthrown 
by which the several realms of Being were divided. Natural 
philosophy, ethics, epistemology are fused into a single 
whole ; and their highest concepts coalesce in the numerical 
principles which they have in common. At the summit of 
the pyramid of numbers, which is at the same time a 
pyramid of concepts, stands the principle of unity. We 
recall here that Platonic yearning for the unconditional 
unification of man and society which grew into a fierce 
hatred of all sundering differences, all Mine and Thine, all 
divergence of opinion, all individuality. In the universe, 
again, unity became the principle of salvation, of per- 
manent subsistence, and so of the Good (cf. Vol. III. p. 215). 
To all this we have now to add the intellectual sphere, in 
which the principle of unity makes its appearance as self- 
thinking, universal reason, or as self-contemplating deity, 
drawing as yet no distinction between subject and object. 
We have already reached a point where more is surmise 


than inference. No glimpse whatever is afforded us of the 
manner in which Plato reduced the Ideas to numerical 
principles. All that can be said with certainty is that he 
associated each subordinate concept with its appropriate 
siimmum genus, or number-principle, the whole forming 
an arrangement in which the more general always ranked 
above the more particular (cf. Vol. III. p. 374). We can 
understand how a sober thinker like Speusippus, instead 
of falling under the intoxicating spell of these philosophic 
identities, found himself called upon to assert the specific 
differences which distinguish the fundamental conceptions 
of the ethical and physical, the intellectual and mathe- 
matical spheres. 

Such sobriety was not among the gifts of Xenocrates. 
The magic of number held him in thrall. The sacred 
number three was discovered by him everywhere. It 
appeared in the composition of philosophy, which he sub- 
divided primarily into physics, ethics, and logic. It was 
seen in the structure of the universe, to whose three regions 
there corresponded three forms of the Godhead, and three 
stages of knowledge ; while the threefold nature of entities 
— intelligible, sensible, and mixed — found a concrete repre- 
sentation in the three Parcse. On fancies such as these 
there is no need to dwell. Nor is there much more profit 
to be won from the study of his physics. This was closely 
modelled on that of the "Timceus," with the distinction 
that the place of the primary triangles was taken by 
genuinely material particles. He would have nothing to 
do with an origin of the world in time, or a creation of the 
world-soul ; and accordingly he was one of the first, if not 
the first, to treat the expressions in the " Timseus " which 
set forth these ideas as mere devices of exposition. His 
ethics, which was contained in numerous writings, is known 
to us only in uncertain outline. One of his utterances 
which places the desire to do evil on a level with the 
accomplished deed, surprises us by the refinement of feeling 
it manifests. He did not entirely disregard bodily and 
external goods, and clearly was further removed from the 
Cynic position than his successor. 


3. This was Polemon of Athens, a member of a wealthy 
family of ancient nobility, who was head of the Academy 
from 314 to 270. His youth was wild, even dissolute. 
He was once one of a company of revellers .who rioted 
through the magnificent street of the "Potter's Market" 
in broad daylight. Intrigues which went beyond the 
limits allowed by Greek manners gave his wife occasion 
for a divorce suit. Intercourse with Xenocrates trans- 
formed him beyond recognition. His ideal came to be 
calmness and rigidity of mind carried to the extent of 
insensibility. In the theatre, when all around were in the 
grip of the keenest emotion, the little man with the hard 
stern features could not be seen to move a muscle. Not 
even the bite of a mad dog drew from him a cry of fear 
or anguish. From his pupils he received not only admira- 
tion, but the warmest devotion. Many of them, in order 
to be always near him, chose to live in the garden of the 
Academy, in which they erected small huts. In his teaching, 
dialectic and physics passed into the background ; his sole 
concern was with the Platonic ethics, which in his hands 
approximated to the Cynic type. He acknowledged 
nature as his guide ; and his commendation of the " life 
according to nature " contained germs capable of the 
richer elaboration which they subsequently received from 
Stoics and Epicureans. His professional labours were 
seconded by those of Grantor, a man of no slight import- 
ance, who, by expounding the " Timseus," opened the 
series of Platonic exegetes, though his interpretation of 
the dialogue followed lines traced by Xenocrates. In 
another direction, too. Grantor was a pioneer, for his cele- 
brated book "On Mpurning" founded the literature of 
consolation. Among other things, this work contained a 
review of the pros and cons of immortality which recalled 
Plato's "Apology." A precious fragment of it is extant, 
in which a profound understanding is revealed of the 
function performed by bodily pain as a guardian of health, 
and by mental pain as a preservative from brutish de- 
moralization. A similar tone of moderation is shown in 
his " table of goods," in which virtue occupies the highest 


place, while room is yet found for health and riches, and 
for pleasure between the two. The different goods were 
represented as appearing before a festival assembly of the 
Greeks and contending for the first prize — an idea which 
was carried out with the same grace and spirit that marked 
the work " On Mourning." Though Polemon's ideal of 
apathy or insensibility was not that of Grantor, the two 
men were bound by ties of the most intimate friendship. 
Indeed, their companionship grew into a complete com- 
munity of life, in which they were joined by Grates, 
Polemon's successor in the headship of the school (270- .?), 
and lastly by the next head, Arcesilaus (i'-24i). Even 
the bones of the friends were directed to "be laid in the 
same grave, a touch of sentimentality in which the spirit 
of the age proved stronger than the somew^hat Gynically 
coloured ideal of Polemon. The latter would seem to 
have felt, dimly at any rate, the onesidedness of his nature 
and his consequent need of a complement. Otherwise, 
a man of his stamp, one who held aloof from all partici- 
pation in state affairs, who avoided all gatherings of men, 
who entered the city as seldom as possible, would hardly 
have attached himself to Grates, who took an active share 
in politics and was even willing to undertake journeys as 
envoy. Grates, again, wrote a book on Gomedy, while 
Polemon's favourite author was the tragic poet Sophocles, 
There was a still sharper contrast between Polemon and 
Arcesilaus, the fourth of the friendly band. While the 
former despised all dialectic, the latter awoke it to a new 
and vigorous life within the school of Plato. But with 
him we have reached the limits of the Old Academy, 
We cannot, however, take our leave of it without men- 
tioning an accessory but exceedingly attractive figure, of 
whose manifold activities we must now give the briefest 
possible account, 

4. The name of Heraclides is not new to our readers. 
They will remember the considerable share which he had 
in the progress of astronomical theory (cf. Vol, I, p. 121). 
But his many-sided intellect was not exhausted in this 
contribution. This native of Heraclea on the Black Sea 


had become at home in the circle of Plato's pupils. It 
would appear that he stood in particularly close relation 
to Speusippus ; and he received instruction in rhetoric 
from Aristotle during the latter's first residence in Athens. 
Plato is said to have left him, during his last Sicilian 
journey, to take his place at the Academy ; and, in any 
case, his reputation in that quarter was so great that on 
the death of Speusippus he nearly obtained the headship. 
He was, however, second to Xenocrates, though by only 
a narrow margin of votes, and his disappointment gave 
him a motive for returning to his home. Unfortunately, 
his literary and educational work did not satisfy his am- 
bition. Like Empedocles, he was something of a poseur, 
and the resemblance was heightened by his craving for 
more than human honours. This presumption was visited 
by a requital which may be called tragic. When his native 
land had been suffering from persistent bad harvests, and 
the Delphic oracle was consulted in the hope of obtaining 
deliverance, he contrived, by bribing the envoys sent to 
Delphi, as well as the Pythia herself, to have an answer 
returned to the effect that the Heracleots would prosper 
better if they were to crown Heraclides with a golden 
crown as a benefactor of his country, and after his death 
honour him as a hero. The sequel could not but impress 
men's minds as a divine judgment. For while the response 
of the oracle was being announced in the theatre before 
the assembled people, Heraclides, who was in a state of 
violent excitement, suddenly fell down dead, like that 
Olympic victor who was seized with apoplexy at the 
moment of his triumph. This touch of the charlatan in 
his character has influenced in undue measure the judg- 
ments of men upon Heraclides the author. We do not 
know, it is true, whether there is any justice in the charge 
of plagiarism which was brought against him by a rival. 
But if his dialogues were adorned with wonderful tales and 
inventions of fantastic audacity, he was well within his 
rights as an artist, and is no more blameable on that 
account than was Plato for his vision of Er the Pamphyl- 
lian, not to mention the marvellous realm of Atlantis. 


The most remarkable of his fictions was probably that 
in which he represented a man as coming from the moon 
to the earth, perhaps with the same object as that which 
Voltaire had in view when he made his Micromegas leave 
his native Sirius to visit the earth and criticize the afifairs 
of men. 

This fashion of expanding the dialogue form beyond 
its original bounds by all manner of fanciful additions 
was by no means confined to Heraclides. Eudoxus 
composed " Dog-dialogues ; " and the " Panther " and the 
" Crow " of Diogenes are additional instances which imply 
an incursion into the realm of animal-lore. That which 
especially distinguished the dialogues of the Pontine 
philosopher was the rich variety of character depicted 
in them, the great extent of the narratives which formed 
their framework or were woven into their texture, and 
also the lifelike " medium conversational tone " for which 
they were famous. They were divided into tragic and 
comic, and embraced a wide gamut of subjects and modes 
of treatment. One of them, entitled " On the Apparently 
Dead," described a marvellous cure said to have been 
wrought by Empedocles. Another of his contributions 
to this class of literature introduced the reader into the 
world below, and yet another represented a Magus as 
arriving at the court of Gelo, and narrating the circum- 
navigation of Libya. Lastly, there was the " Abaris," 
in which Pythagoras appeared as an interlocutor as well 
as the Hyperborean wonder-worker whose name furnished 
the title. This work, which filled several volumes, would 
seem to have been simply a novel interspersed with 

Was Heraclides the author greater than Heraclides 
the philosopher .'' One is inclined to conjecture that he 
was. For while the artistic form of his works receives 
repeated praise, and is imitated even by Varro and Cicero, 
the number of specific doctrines, apart from his great 
innovations in astronomy, that are attributed to him, 
is not considerable. Our authorities, it is true, often 
leave us in the lurch. We learn that he modified the 


Atomism of Abdera, and that this doctrine, so modified, 
was retained by Asclepiades, the founder of the "Methodic" 
school of medicine (first century B.C.). But we have 
anything but clear information on the nature and extent 
of this transformation. In any case, Heraclides aban- 
doned the old and largely misleading form of the doctrine 
by rejecting the conception of an atom and substituting 
for it that of a simple body. For it is obvious that his 
" unarticulated particles " can be interpreted in this and 
no other way. Testimony of unimpeachable credit forbids 
us to suppose that he tampered with what is fundamental 
in the atomic theory, the limitation of objective reality 
to the mechanical properties of the primitive particles. 
He may, however, have lopped off certain fanciful ac- 
cretions to it ; he may have denied the infinite series 
of simple kinds of body, and thrown the burden which 
this hypothesis was intended to bear on an assumed 
multiplicity of combinations by which varying effects are 
produced on our senses. This view of his teaching, which 
would thus have had affinities with modern chemistry, is 
suggested to us by the report, hardly susceptible of any 
other interpretation, that his atoms were liable to undergo 
changes, due, no doubt, to their action upon each other. 
The theistic disciple of Plato, moreover, can hardly have 
attributed to the world of matter that sovereign importance 
which it possessed in the eyes of Democritus, for whom 
the gods themselves were the products of linked atoms, 
incapable, as he thought, of exerting any influence on the 
processes of the world. The position of Heraclides may in 
this respect have resembled that of modern theologians, who 
no longer resist the doctrine of evolution, but regard that 
process rather as an instrument of the Divine purposes 
than as a prime cause in itself. That he attacked the Demo- 
critean theory of perception, we gather from the title of one 
of his books ("On Phantasms against Democritus"). His 
polemical activity was further directed against Heraclitus, 
as well as against his P^leatic antithesis, Zeno ; while the 
history of the Pythagorean school was a favourite subject 
with his pen. lie filled many volumes with his writings 


on ethics and politics, mathematics and physics, and the 
history of music, in addition to his works of a mere purely 
literary character. The same tendency to the encyclo- 
pedic pursuit of knowledge is to be met with, on a much 
larger scale, in another and greater thinker, who, like the 
Pontine, sprang from the school of Plato, and, like him, 
failed to find a place within its bounds. 





I. Apart from founders of religions, no single man has 
ever exerted so permanent an influence on the mental 
life of mankind as Socrates, But this influence was very 
largely indirect. It is to be perceived in quarters where 
the name of Socrates has never been heard. A very 
different destiny awaited the most illustrious of his intel- 
lectual grandchildren. The victorious march of Aristotle 
is without a parallel. Fifteen hundred years after his 
death he is spoken of by the great poet of the Middle 
Ages as the " Master of those who know." Ecclesiastical 
assemblies of Christian Europe penalize all deviation from 
the metaphysical doctrines of the heathen thinker : many 
a faggot blazes to consume his opponents. And the man 
whom Christendom delights to honour is no less the idol 
of Islam. In Bagdad and Cairo, in Cordova and Samar- 
cand, the minds of men acknowledge his sway. The 
Crusader and the Moslem forget their strife while they vie 
in praises of the Grecian sage. 

Truly the threads of fate are strangely interwoven 
here. Mediaeval Europe owed the revival of Aristotelian 
philosophy to the Arabs. They in their turn drew their 
knowledge from Syriac translations, the makers of which 
were well fitted to mediate between their Greek brethren in 
the faith and their Arabian brethren of the Semite stock. 
Thus the dead Aristotle set up reciprocal influences of 
far-reaching compass between East and West, and con- 
tributed his part towards the realization of the ideal which 
his great pupil kept before his mind — that fusion of Orient 
and Occident after which Alexander strove in many a 
hotly contested fight. 


This relation of pupil and teacher, which bound 
Alexander to Aristotle, the arbiter of the world to the 
arbiter of thought, strikes us as one of the most curious 
caprices of history. It had its origin in the connexion 
of the philosopher's father with the Macedonian Court. 
Nicomachus, an eminent member of the Asclepiad family, 
and not unknown to literary fame, stood in close relation 
to Philip's father Amyntas, as his physician and trusted 
adviser. Thus Aristotle spent his years of childhood at 
a royal court ; he was saved, however, from the enervating 
influences of court life by the bereavement which left him 
an orphan in his boyhood. He grew up in his native 
place, the humble Stagira, under the care of his guardian, 
Proxenus. At the age of seventeen he went to Athens 
and entered the school of Plato (367). 

Here he abode for two decades, up to the death of 
the master. There were current in ancient days stories of 
the pupil's relation to the teacher, as to the truth of which 
we are in some measure able to judge. It is related that 
Aristotle made use of Plato's repeated absences to secure 
his own preponderant influence in the school, for which 
reason Plato charged him with ingratitude, and compared 
him to a colt that lashes out at his mother. Closely 
examined, this tale may be seen to be mere idle gossip. 
It is not only that in those of his works which have been 
preserved Aristotle displays the deepest reverence for his 
great teacher. For instance, there is the well-known 
passage in the " Ethics," where he prefaces a polemic 
against the Ideas by the fine saying that, difficult as he 
finds it to combat a doctrine originating in a friendly 
quarter, truth yet demands the sacrifice. *' For if the 
choice is left to us between regard for truth and regard 
for a man, piety bids us pay the higher honour to truth." 
That which is most important is the simple fact that he 
spent all those years at Athens and in the Academy. Nor 
is it entirely without significance that a literary opponent, 
who assailed Aristotle during that period, could think of 
no more effective plan than to make the exclusively 
Platonic doctrine of Ideas the objective of his attack. 


" He struck at Plato, wishing to wound Aristotle," says our 
authority. From this it is clear that he was at that 
time regarded simply as a member of the Platonic school, 
and that of misunderstandings between the two men out- 
siders at any rate knew nothing. The polemical writing 
referred to was the work of a pupil of Isocrates, Cephiso- 
dorus by name, and was connected with the rivalry which 
existed between Aristotle and Isocrates as teachers of 
rhetoric. For the Stagirite had already begun to give 
instruction in this subject, though not in philosophy ; and 
that he looked with some contempt on the pretentious 
superficiality of the older man is what we might have 
conjectured even if it had not been expressly attested. He 
meted out public chastisement to the inferiority of his 
distinguished rival. 

In other ways, too, that period of his life saw him busy 
with his pen. The greater part, if not the whole, of his 
dialogues had been composed before he turned his back on 
Athens. This step was one which he could not bring 
himself to take till the aged master had drawn his last 
breath (347), just as for that master himself the execution 
of Socrates had been the signal for departure. Not only 
was the bond broken which had hitherto bound him to 
Athens ; it is clear that he could not see in Speusippus the 
man best qualified to direct the school. This is confirmed 
by the circumstance that when he left Athens he was 
accompanied by Xenocrates, For the new scene of their 
labours the comrades chose Assos, a city of Mysia. This 
city, together with Atarneus, was governed by Hermias, 
who had formerly been a slave of Eubulus, the sovereign 
of Assos, but who had risen to be his master's successor. 
He had at one time been a fellow-student of the two young 
philosophers at Athens ; he now acted as an out-sentinel 
of the Macedonian empire, which here came into collision 
with the Persian. This conflict claimed him as a victim ; 
for after Mentor the Rhodian, a commander of Persian 
troops, had enticed him outside the city on pretext of a 
diplomatic conference, he was taken prisoner and sent to 
the Great King, who had him put to a shameful death. 


The two friends fled to Mitylene, the chief city of the 
neighbouring island Lesbos. At the same time, Pythias, 
a niece and adopted daughter of the fallen prince, likewise 
sought safety in flight. Aristotle felt himself drawn to 
her in her distress, and chose her for his wife. From 
Mitylene he was summoned (342) to the Macedonian Court, 
to which he was recommended by his literary achieve- 
ments, the memory of the royal physician his father, and 
his close relations to Hermias, the unfortunate victim of 
Macedonian policy. With an unerring eye, Philip perceived 
in the rising scholar and author the right man to educate 
his son, then a boy of fourteen. 

The kings of Macedon had always set store on " moral 
conquests " in Hellas, So far back as the first Persian 
wars, Alexander I. had sought to establish his claim to 
take part in the Olympic games by producing a pedigree 
which reached back to Heracles. At the present moment 
Philip was a member of the Delphic Amphictyony ; he 
had acted as president of the Pythian games ; he was 
already de facto the Protector of Greece. It was not to 
be thought of that an heir destined to still greater things 
should lack those means of education for the command 
of which Greek princes and statesmen strove at that time 
with the keenest rivalry. But, even apart from possible 
political complications, it may well have seemed undesir- 
able to place him in the midst of Athenian democrats at 
the school of Isocrates or of Speusippus. The monarch 
seized upon an expedient which does the greatest honour 
to his pedagogic insight. He decided that Alexander 
should complete his studies in the peace of the country, far 
from the din of the court, under the guidance of the most 
eminent educational talent to be had. For this purpose 
he selected Mieza, a city lying to the south-west of the 
royal seat, at the foot of the wooded heights of Bermion, 
or rather not the city itself, but a shrine of the nymphs in 
its neighbourhood, not far from an extensive stalactite 
cave. There a kind of private university was established. 
To a late date tourists were shown the stone benches and 
shady avenues in which Aristotle can hardly have been the 


only teacher or Alexander the only pupil. We shall do 
better to picture the one at the head of a professorial staff, 
and the other surrounded by a company of fellow-students 
drawn from the highest Macedonian aristocracy. This 
university-life of Alexander lasted only two years. In 
the year 340 he was called upon to act as regent for his 
father while the latter was absent on a military expedition. 
This duty over, he may have continued his intercourse 
with the philosopher for a few years more, though not 
without frequent interruptions occasioned by participation 
in his father's campaigns. 

To take the measure of the influence which Aristotle 
exercised over his ambitious pupil is, unfortunately, a task 
beyond the materials at our command. It is easier to 
indicate the point at which this influence failed. The 
Stagirite was filled with the consciousness of nationality 
steeped in national pride. The line between Greek and 
Barbarian was for him an inviolable frontier. Nature, he 
thought, had ordained the one to rule and the other to 
serve. The conqueror of the world, on the other hand, 
who in the far East assumed Persian dress, adopted Persian 
court-ceremonial, and entrusted Orientals with high office, 
mightily battered those barriers, and prepared the way 
for their final collapse. Whatever counsel Aristotle gave 
under this head was disregarded. It may be that we have 
here the source of that coolness which arose between the 
two men, of that growing estrangement whose traces were 
thought to be discernible in the tone of Alexander's letters. 
However begun, it was almost certainly enhanced by the 
embroilment of the king with a former fellow-student, 
Callisthenes, who was also a nephew of Aristotle. It is 
easy to understand that, in spite of all this, the royal pupil 
showed no remissness in bestowing honours on his teacher 
and providing fi.nancial support for his researches. Philip 
had during his lifetime accorded a full measure of favour 
to the tutor of his heir, and had entrusted him with the 
rebuilding of Stagira, which he himself had destroyed. 
A year after Alexander's accession Aristotle returned to 
Athens, and there, in the eastern part of the city, founded 


a school in connexion with the gymnasium known as the 
Lyceum, a name which was also borne by the school, and 
has passed into modern languages. A prodigious curri- 
culum of philosophy and science was worked through in 
the lectures, to which the treatises preserved to us owed 
their origin. 

Just as Alexander's accession opened his tutor's pro- 
fessional career at Athens, so his death set a term to it. 
All the hatred and ill will that Aristotle had ever aroused 
burst into activity on the death of his protector. Several 
circumstances combined to make this outburst as sudden 
as dangerous. The Stagirite had never been a practical 
politician. He had never lent the least assistance to 
Macedonian expansion. Indeed, wonderful as it may 
sound, the keen-sighted philosopher never suspected the 
momentousness of the world-change which was being 
accomplished before his eyes — perhaps for the very reason 
that the agents of it were only too near him. The idea 
that monarchical government was destined to prevail in 
Greece itself never occurred to his mind. No sentence 
in his " Politics " betrays a knowledge or even a presenti- 
ment of this transformation. His heart clung, as of old, 
to the Hellenic tt6\ic ; and his ideals, like those of Plato, 
were concerned solely with its development and renova- 
tion. It was as the allies, not the subjects, of the Mace- 
donian kingdom that he pictured the Greeks of the future. 
But all this could not prevent a philosopher who had been 
the all-powerful ruler's tutor, who enjoyed his protection, 
and who had abundant cause for gratitude to him, from 
appearing in the light of a Macedonian partizan. P'or 
one thing, he stood in a relation of warm and unconcealed 
friendship to the vicegerent, Antipater. Again, Nicanor, 
the son of his guardian and assigned in his will as the 
future husband of his daughter Pythias, was an officer of 
high rank in the army of Alexander. In this capacity he 
had been entrusted, shortly before his master's death, with 
a duty which could not but arouse the liveliest antipathy 
against him and all associated with him. In the year 324 
he was the bearer of a royal rescript, which he caused to 


be promulgated by herald's cry at the Olympic festival 
assembly. This document ordered, in a domineering tone, 
the restoration of all political exiles, and threatened recal- 
citrant states with immediate and severe punishment. The 
impression produced by this dictatorial act was profound. 
It was welcomed with loud shouts of exultation by the 
vast number of Macedonian proteges there present, who 
were now assured of a return to home and wealth and 
power. Exasperation and dismay filled the ranks of their 
opponents, especially the Athenians. Even the great 
orator Demosthenes, in spite of the patriotic zeal he had 
so often and so signally displayed, was severely censured 
for having caused himself to be elected leader of the 
festival-deputation in order to confer with Nicanor. The 
Stagirite's fatherly friendship for his guardian's son was 
well known. He certainly met him at Olympia on his 
return from long absence in the East, even if he did not 
receive a visit from him at Athens. The incident opened 
the flood-gates of a hatred which could not fail to break 
over Aristotle as well. 

In the following year an indictment was laid against 
Aristotle, charging him, as usual in such cases, with offences 
against religion {}ia'^\iiia). All the hostile interests here 
united themselves against him : religious orthodoxy, 
represented by Eurymedon, high-priest of the Eleusinian 
Demeter, and the rhetorical school of Isocrates, whose 
malice had been inherited by his pupil's pupil Demophilus, 
son of the historian Ephorus. Among the acts charged 
against him was his homage to Hermias, the dynast of 
Atarncus, who, as tyrant or unconstitutional ruler, as ex- 
slave, and as eunuch, seemed thrice unworthy of the honours 
which he had received from Aristotle, namely, a statue set 
up at Delphi, and a poem (which has been preserved) in 
glorification of his " manly virtue." 

"Athens must not sin a second time against philosophy" 
— such arc the words, we arc told, in which the accused 
philosopher justified his flight. He turned his back on the 
city in which he had sat at the feet of Plato, in which 
he had ruled as the revered head of a school, and the 


constitutional development of which he had recorded with 
diligence and justice, even with affection. 

For a safe and convenient place of refuge he had not 
far to seek. At Chalcis in the neighbouring island of 
Euboea, the home of his mother, he possessed an estate, 
inherited from her, the peaceful seclusion of which he was 
not to enjoy for long. He died there soon afterwards 
(322), at the age of sixty-two. 

The will of Aristotle has been preserved, and affords us 
an instructive and pleasing glimpse of the disposition as 
well as of the personal and family circumstances of this 
extraordinary man. There is no mention in it of the 
school ; this and its appurtenances, together with the 
extensive private library, had been already transferred 
by Aristotle to Theophrastus, the successor chosen by 
himself, during his life-time, probably on the occasion 
of his migration to Chalcis. Antipater was named as 
executor. Nicanor, his son-in-law elect, was requested to 
take charge, " like a father and brother in one," of the two 
children, who were still of tender age. The daughter, 
as already mentioned, was named Pythias after her 
mother, Aristotle's first wife. Their marriage, contracted 
at the time of their common flight to Lesbos, seems to 
have been a particularly happy and high-toned union. 
Before her early death, the elder Pythias had expressed 
a wish that her bones might be laid with those of her 
husband. In his will he made provision for the fulfilment 
of that wish. It would seem, too, that he offered sacrifices 
at her grave as at that of a heroine. His second choice 
was a less romantic one. It fell on an obviously good- 
natured and sensible creature who secured for him the 
domestic peace and order which were demanded by his 
colossal aud unceasing intellectual labours. Her name, 
Herpyllis, occurs elsewhere only in the circles of the 
hctcerte. This is in accord with her status of housekeeper 
and concubine, which at Athens created no scandal, and 
to some extent enjoyed the protection of the law. She 
bore Aristotle a son, Nicomachus. In his will he praises 
her good conduct, provides for her sufficient maintenance, 


not forgetting furniture and service, and offers her for a 
dwelling-place the "hostel near the garden" of his Eubcean 
estate, in case she did not prefer to live at Stagira, where she, 
too, had been born, in the old and perhaps old-fashioned 
home. The gratitude and sympathy shown in these 
provisions are clearly differentiated from the fervent love 
and reverence which the philosopher manifests towards his 
own mother as well as towards his father's friend Proxenus 
and his family. A statue of his mother is to be set up at 
Nemea ; others, of Nicanor and his parents, are to be 
commissioned ; a votive-offering is to be presented in 
memory of a danger once fortunately escaped by Nicanor, 
probably in war or on the sea. The dispositions affecting 
the slaves of both sexes, none of whom is to be sold, show 
Aristotle as a kind master in death as in life. 




I. " Moderate to excess " — such is the witticism (un- 
intentional, as the context shows) in which an ancient 
biographer aptly summarized the character of Aristotle. 
The Greek ideal of measure, of an equipoise of har- 
moniously-developed powers, found expression in his 
personality as well as in his theory of ethics. Violent 
passions seem to have been utterly foreign to his nature. 
On the cancellation (clearly for political reasons) of honours 
previously conferred upon him for his services to the history 
of the Pythian games, he wrote to Antipater : " The 
situation as to the Delphic decisions is this — they neither 
distress me seriously, nor leave me altogether indifferent." 
It was just this kind of temper, not subject to violent 
perturbation, and yet with no leaning 'towards dull in- 
sensibility, that was thoroughly characteristic of him. A 
fundamental condition was thus satisfied for the immense 
and untiring activity of his mind. " Laborious " is the 
first epithet that falls from his pen, when he sings the 
praises at once of "Virtue" and of his friend Hermias. 
The labours of Heracles, too, receive prominent mention 
here. This pa;an is not without its share of poetic 
inspiration ; but in another poetical essay, the elegy on 
Eudemus (Vol. II. p. 71), the level quickly falls. In the 
prose works it is but seldom that we come across out- 
breaks of strong feeling ; those which do occur are no 
doubt the more effective for their isolation. We may 
instance the tribute to truth already mentioned ; or the 
praise of justice as " perfected virtue," whose wondrous 
beauty " not the morning and not the evening star " can 


The numerous and extensive treatises reveal to us the 
thought of their author much more closely than his will 
and feeling. A few years ago a book was recovered which 
brings the Stagirite somewhat nearer to us as a man. 
The " Constitution of the Athenians " occupies a middle 
position between the severely objective, not to say arid, 
manuals and the highly personal utterances of the will, 
the poems, and the epistolary fragments. It is a collection 
of materials worked up into a readable book, one of many 
preliminary studies for the comprehensive work on politics. 
Aristotle here lets himself run on in an easy conversational 
manner, so that his personal tastes are more clearly per- 
ceived ; and as his models and sources are at least in part 
known to us, we gain a deeper view than elsewhere of 
his relations to his predecessors and fellow-investigators. 
The impression which we receive is throughout one of 
benevolent dignity. He makes no parade of his laborious 
researches. He silently corrects ancient errors and wide- 
spread misunderstandings. He wounds no contemporary, 
he insults no predecessor. There is no breath of what 
may be called the eristic spirit of the Stagirite, a spirit 
which has sometimes given occasion for unjust judgments. 
Some critics have detected, as they thought, a touch of 
unchivalrous combativeness, especially in the polemics 
against Plato. The disciple was supposed to have 
concealed his dependence on his master in respect of 
fundamentals behind discussions of minor details. This 
charge we regard as unfounded. Dialectician as he was, 
and, indeed, stronger by far in this than in any other 
capacity, he no doubt indulged himself in dragging to 
light even trivial offences against scientific rigour, and 
in so doing employed a kind of criticism which must often 
strike us as petty pedantry. The dialectical tourney 
has an overpowering attraction for him. But he must be 
acquitted of the disloyal motive just mentioned. The 
lectures out of which the treatises grew were addressed 
to youthful contemporaries, thoroughly familiar with Plato's 
writings ; there was no reason why he should seize each 
new occasion as it arose to remind them once more of 


the debt of gratitude which bound him to his great 

Another fundamental characteristic of his mind, 
specially prominent in the newly-discovered book, is his 
love of the particular. Anything in the nature of an 
anecdote has great charms for him. His delight in 
picturesque detail often leads him into digressions un- 
necessary for the main purpose of his exposition. Plato 
is said to have called the house in which he lived as 
a young man " the house of the reader ; " and doubtless 
he belonged to the number of those whose appetite for 
reading has been insatiable during boyhood and youth. 
Like another great encyclopaedist, Leibniz to wit, he 
wished to read everything ; and the strength of his 
interest in general subjects increased rather than 
diminished with years. " The lonelier and more hermit- 
like I become " — so the ageing philosopher wrote to 
Antipater — " the greater pleasure I take in histories." 
It was not only that he loved to feast his imagination on 
the motley variety of events ; his sense of humour was 
by no means weak, and drew rich nutriment from the 
perversity of human actions. The part of a crafty Ulysses 
so successfully enacted by Themistocles at the super- 
session of the Areopagus, the trick played on the 
Athenians by the exiled prince Pisistratus when he 
caused a Thracian flower-girl to pose as Pallas Athene 
escorting him back to his home, with the superstitious 
populace on their knees at her feet — this and the like 
of this is described in that book at remarkable length 
and with manifest enjoyment. We can almost see the 
roguish twinkle of the little eyes and the mocking smile 
playing round the lips. We no longer doubt the authen- 
ticity of the biting sarcasm attributed to him : " The 
Athenians have invented two things — wheat-culture (ac- 
cording to the myth of Triptolemus) and excellent laivs. 
The only difference is that they eat the wheat, but make 
no use of the laws." 

2. The judgments of the ancients on the artistic 
qualities of Aristotle's style are of a kind to cause us 


considerable perplexity. The " golden ripple " of his 
language, the " richness of its colouring," its overwhelming 
" force," the magic fascination of its " grace " — for these 
we search the works of Aristotle in vain. We speak of 
him as an author who is nearly always monotonous and 
colourless, sometimes curt and sometimes prolix, not 
seldom obscure, occasionally negligent. The contrast of 
verdicts and impressions could not be more glaring. 
There must be a misunderstanding somewhere. It is as 
if we were describing that part of the moon's surface with 
which we are familiar, while our fellow-observers on some 
other planet had in view that side of our satellite which 
we never see. And such, indeed, is the fact. The Aris- 
totle of the ancients is not our Aristotle, and ours is not 
theirs. Those of his writings which they read, or read 
by preference, have not reached us ; that which we have 
was in part entirely unknown to them, in part known in 
such a way that to make it the basis of a judgment on 
Aristotle's style v/ould never enter their heads. Our part 
consists of the text-books, theirs of the dialogues. It 
is to the latter that the Stagirite refers when he speaks 
of his " published " works. Only a few sorry fragments 
of them remain. Contrary to the practice of Plato, the 
author introduced himself into them as one of the inter- 
locutors. They were not addressed to fellow-students of 
philosophy, but to the wide circles of the educated, to 
whose pampered and refined literary taste they gave 
full satisfaction. 

It is far more surprising to be told that our Aristotle 
was not the Aristotle of the ancient critics and scholars. 
But this statement is supported by an authoritative piece 
of evidence, the list of Aristotle's works compiled in the 
Alexandrine epoch. One of the principal works best 
known to us is the " Metaphysics." It does not occur in that 
catalogue, while there are a number of book-titles that corre- 
spond to the contents of separate sections of that work. In 
order to understand this curious state of affairs we shall 
have to take into consideration both the origin of these 
treatises and the vicissitudes of their fortune. We have 


already spoken of them as text-books, and more than once 
we have intimated that they arose out of the lectures. To 
some extent evidence for this still exists in the titles. The 
work on physics bears even in our manuscripts the title 
" Lectures on Physics." The " Politics " was once at any 
rate headed by a similar phrase. Now and again we come 
upon the " hearer " when we expect to find the reader 
mentioned. The question presents itself whether what 
we have in our hands is the lecture as written down by 
the author ready for delivery, or as reproduced in the 
notes taken by his audience. The answer, it would appear, 
cannot be given either as simply or with the same generality 
as the question. Most of the systematic works are far too 
good to be merely students' notes ; much in them, on the 
other hand, is such matter as a practised teacher fittingly 
leaves to the inspiration of the moment, and does not bring 
wdth him, in black and white, into the lecture-room. Such, 
for example, is the address to the audience at the end of 
the course on logic, an apostrophe in which the creator of 
logic draws attention to the novelty of his subject and 
claims at once credit for what he has succeeded in doing 
and indulgence for any deficiencies. The process by which 
these systematic treatises came into being does not seem 
to have been in every case the same, and, generally speak- 
ing, was probably somewhat complicated. Most of them 
will have owed their origin to both sources — the lecturer's 
draft and memoranda made by the audience. In some 
cases the master may have himself worked up his original 
version with the aid of his pupils' notes, in others this work 
may have been done by others after his death, in one 
instance long after. The " Metaphysics," as a minute 
analysis has shown, was produced in the second of these 
ways. It is a work in which we find the same theme 
handled twice, first, it may be, in broad outline, and then 
immediately after in diffuse elaboration ; or, again, the two 
treatments may be barely distinguishable. The very name 
is due, not to the author, but to a late compiler, who placed 
the work after (/^£r«) the books on physics. Such an 
origin of the treatises, again, seems necessary to explain 


the remarkable oscillations between exaggerated com- 
pression and over-lucid expansion. Here we find an 
example hinted at with such enigmatic brevity that a 
severe effort is needed for its comprehension ; another will 
be elaborated and explained with superfluous fulness. 
Both modes of treatment occur in the same book and in 
the same section of it. We are driven to seek the expla- 
nation in the varying exigencies of the lecture-room. 
Here time pressed, there it was only too abundant. Or 
again, what we have before us is sometimes the bare 
catch-phrase jotted down in the lecturer's notes ; some- 
times it is the detailed exposition into which he developed 
it in the lecture itself. 

The history of these works, and of the component parts 
of some which were not yet extant as wholes, is so like 
a novel that the truth of the narratives containing it has 
often been called in question. Such doubts, we hold, are 
groundless, for the simple reason that both the beginning 
and the end of the story are vouched for by unassailable 
testimony — the first by the will of Theophrastus, the 
second by a statement of the geographer Strabo, who had 
been a pupil of the Tyrannion shortly to be mentioned. 

Theophrastus bequeathed " all " his " books to Neleus," 
a friend and pupil who lived at Scepsis in the Troad. The 
heirs of Neleus thought only of the money value of this 
great collection of books, among which were those of 
Aristotle. But their very cupidity entailed severe injury 
upon the precious possession. That district of Asia Minor 
belonged to the kingdom of Pergamum, the rulers of which 
soon began to collect books in rivalry with the Ptolemies, 
and endeavoured to eclipse the Alexandrine library by 
their own. Fearing the loss of their treasure, the suc- 
cessors of Neleus buried it in a cellar-vault, where it 
remained secure from the prying commissioner, but all the 
more a prey to damp and insects. At length a rich buyer 
came forward, the bibliophile Apellicon, through whose 
agency an edition was prepared, an extremely defective 
one from a critical point of view, and disfigured by 
arbitrary restorations of the numerous lacunce. At the 


capture of Athens, soon after Apellicon's death, the 
collection of books came to Rome as part of Sulla's loot, 
and the ill-treated text was subjected to a careful revision 
by Tyrannion, the librarian and writer on grammar. This 
revision formed the basis of the first complete edition of 
the works of Aristotle and Theophrastus, grouped according 
to their subject-matter, which was prepared by Andronicus 
of Rhodes (middle of the first century B.C.). 

No doubt is permissible as to the actual occurrence of 
these events. But the case is different when we come 
to inquire into the range of their significance. Those who 
were concerned in the salvage and the preparation for 
public use of the long-lost aids to knowledge were naturally 
enough inclined to exaggerate the magnitude of these 
operations. Thus Tyrannion's pupil, Strabo, speaks of the 
older Peripatetics as almost entirely unacquainted with the 
works of their master. Clearly the unprejudiced Plutarch 
is far nearer the truth when he states that " most " of 
those works "were at that time not yet accurately known 
to the public." Modern research has carefully collected 
the traces of this knowledge, and has made an end of the 
idea that there were no copies of any of the text-books 
before the edition of Andronicus. As much as this, how- 
ever, may be truthfully said, namely, that some of the 
treatises were entirely unknown, that some had appeared 
only in untrustworthy copies crowded with errors, and that 
there was no possibility of taking a comprehensive survey 
of them. It is, further, a manifest fact that the busy 
labours of the commentators did not begin before that 
epoch, and that the solid study of Aristotelian philosophy 
had no earlier representative than this same Andronicus, 
who expounded the works besides editing them. 

3. Besides the works in finished literary style, mostly 
in dialogue form, and besides the text-books or treatises, 
there was a third class of Aristotelian writings which may 
be described shortly as preliminary studies and collections 
of materials. One portion of a work of this third class 
has already been considered by us, the " Constitution of 
the Athenians." The complete work, entitled "Polities," 


contained the description, in alphabetical order, of 158 
constitutions of single states and confederations, with an 
appendix on the governments of tyrants or usurpers, to 
which was further added a monograph on the " Laws of 
Barbarians," and a separate study of the " Territorial 
Claims of States." It was long ago conjectured that in 
collecting and elaborating the vast mass of material, the 
master was assisted by his pupils. Among the circum- 
stances which point in this direction, we may mention the 
varying accounts given in antiquity of the authorship of 
several works of this type. The law lexicon which appears 
among the works of Theophrastus is in one case expressly 
described as the joint work of teacher and pupil. It is 
only within the last few years that we have been in 
possession of strict documentary evidence of this state of 
affairs. We refer to the Delphic inscription, in which 
praise and public crowning (probably also privileges of 
some kind, cf. p. 27) were accorded to Aristotle and his 
nephew CalHsthenes, mentioned above, for their list of the 
" victors in the Pythian games," and for their prefatory 
investigation into the origin of those games. Thus we 
can hardly doubt any longer that the edition of the " Iliad," 
primarily intended for Alexander's use, which is sometimes 
attributed to Aristotle and sometimes to Callisthenes, was 
produced by the kinsmen in collaboration. The Stagirite 
treated of the Olympian as well as of the Pythian victors, 
and in both cases provided a valuable aid to the study 
both of chronology and of the history of civilization. Of 
a similar character was his " Didascaliae," a tabulation of 
dramatic performances based on inscriptions, forming an 
important preliminary study for his two books "On the 
Art of Poetry," the first of which has been preserved. 
Besides this, there were separate studies " On Tragedies " 
and " On Comic Poets," and again " On Difficulties " in 
Homer, Hesiod, Archilochus, Choerilus, Euripides. Nor did 
he disdain to expound the details of costume-lore in casual 
passages of the three books of his dialogue " On the Poets." 
The three books, still extant, " On Rhetoric," and the lost 
dialogue, " Grylus," on the same subject, were similarly 


based on a preliminary study, the " Collection " of earlier 
theories of rhetoric. For the purpose of fixing his attitude 
to his philosophic predecessors, he wrote a number of mono- 
graphs, on the Pythagoreans, on the philosophy of Archytas, 
and so on, down to special articles on separate Platonic dia- 
logues. Lastly, the history of medicine was treated by his 
pupil Meno, certainly under his direction, and perhaps not 
without his help. These examples, drawn from the field 
of historical studies in the widest sense of the word, will 
give the reader some foretaste of the Stagirite's enormous 
activity in research. His treasures of knowledge would 
seem to have been acquired chiefly during his long student- 
time at Athens and in the years spent at Assos, Mitylene, 
and Mieza ; while the dozen years embraced by his pro- 
fessoriate at Athens may well have been mainly occupied 
in the preparation of his courses of lectures. These 
succeeded each other in an order which, broadly speak- 
ing, corresponded to a progress from the general to the 
particular, from the simple to the complicated. 




I. We often and rightly speak of the mystery of indi- 
viduality. Not that the forces whose working is there to 
be traced are more enigmatic than any others. The 
riddle consists in the multitude and complication of the 
co-operating factors, of which we seldom gain a compre- 
hensive and never a complete view. In the case of our 
philosopher, it must be added that the origin of his intel- 
lectual peculiarities is hidden behind a thick veil. There 
is only one point at which it may be lifted. An essential 
characteristic, the astonishing love of detail which we have 
already noted, must in any case rest upon an unusually 
great capacity for and enjoyment of observation ; and 
this may be confidently regarded as an inheritance from 
a long series of ancestors, members of the Asclepiad family. 
Herein, if we look carefully, we shall find the explanation 
of more than a little. 

Two fundamental types of philosopher may be dis- 
tinguished. In the one the preponderant element is the 
craving for fulness of knowledge, an insatiable quest for 
ever new and varied additions to the stock of facts ; in the 
other the more potent factor is the endeavour after inner 
consistency, after absolute logical rigour in the structure 
of thought. Obviously the distinction is one of degree ; 
neither element can be entirely absent where any consider- 
able achievement in philosophy is aimed at. But none 
the less, there is a very real difference. A Descartes or a 
Spinoza building up, stone by stone, a compact and homo- 
geneous edifice of thought, and a Leibniz or an Aristotle 
sporadically busy in every kind of special investigation 


present us with two widely divergent varieties of the 
same species. The encyclopaedist engrossed in untiring 
detail work may strive as he will after strict unity in the 
fabric of his thought ; his labours will never be crowned 
with the same measure of success that awaits an intellect 
of equal calibre less stimulated and less distracted by the 
exigent instinct of the polymath. In the second case, 
moreover, the pursuit of clearness will follow a special 
direction. It will lead to efforts towards the arrangement 
and subdivision of the vast stock of knowledge. The 
encyclopsedist will devise artifices for making his materials 
manageable, such as the conceptual language of Leibniz, 
or he will become the classifier par excellence. This latter 
was the great intellectual achievement of Aristotle. An 
inborn and, as we may conjecture, partly inherited capacity 
for observation was here combined with the training which 
the descendant of generations of physicians received in 
the school of Plato. When he first joined this school, the 
master's later phase was not far distant. The ceaseless 
exercises in classificatory dialectic, some residue of which 
remains to us in the " Sophist " and the " Statesman," 
formed a unique preparation for the future orderer and 
systematizer of the whole material of knowledge. Aristotle 
became a morphologist in every department of human 
cognition. His perception of similarities and differences, 
his sense of form in the highest sense of the word, was 
developed to incomparable power. His was a genius equal 
to the founding of new branches of knowledge, to the 
creation of sciences so widely divergent as logic and com- 
parative anatomy, the comprehensive review in the one 
case of forms of inference, in the other of forms of organic 
life. It is true that some reserve is necessary. Even this 
light was not without its shade. The fondness for draw- 
ing distinctions was sometimes exaggerated to a mania ; 
the exquisite sense of form not seldom degenerates into 
a love of formulae and their multiplication, into a formalism 
poor in content. The mill of his intellect grinds ever 
exceeding fine, but it is not always fed with a sufficiency 
of [Train. 


There is yet another fundamental characteristic which 
seems to belong to the great encyclopaedist as such. He 
who moves and has his being in observation and the 
investigation of details can hardly fail fully to appreciate 
whatever is individual ; he is out of the reach of the 
temptation to merge separate existences in an absorbing 
universal, whether this be named Idea as by Plato, or 
Substance as by Spinoza. It is hardly a chance coinci- 
dence that the most eminent encyclopaedist of modern 
times created the doctrine of Monads, and that his greater 
predecessor of antiquity found the type of complete reality 
in the individual thing (the rohi n). We learn this from 
the first glance into the work which both in the traditional 
arrangement and in the probable order of composition 
stands first in the course on logic : the little book on the 

2. Hardly any other part of Aristotelian doctrine has 
met with so much honour and so much censure as his 
theory of the categories. The philosophic schools of 
Athens were not yet closed when the little work, now 
provided by commentators with endless annotations, and 
transformed by the neo-Platonist Porphyrius (232-304 A.D.) 
into a catechism, was translated into Latin, and, together 
with a few other elementary writings of Aristotle, formed 
the foundation of logical instruction in the West. At the 
same early date the Syrians became acquainted with these 
books, through them the Arabians, and gradually the 
whole of the Mohammedan East, in which to the present 
day the introduction of Porphyrius is the only text-book 
of logic. On the other hand, leaders of the most diverse, 
and indeed of opposite schools of thought, both in ancient 
and in modern times, have united in a single verdict of 
condemnation. We do not here speak of Stoics and 
Neo-Platonists, of an Athenodorus and a Plotinus. Even 
in the opinion of Kant, Aristotle jotted down the ten 
categories just as they occurred to him ; and Hegel says 
that he threw them together anyhow. The extreme of 
depreciation is reached with J. S. Mill, who remarks con- 
temptuously that this enumeration " is like a division of 


animals into men, quadrupeds, horses, asses, and ponies." 
So uncompromising a condemnation of an eminent thinker 
seldom hits the nail on the head. Far oftener it arises 
from a misunderstanding of the object which he had in 
view. How, we ask accordingly, did the Stagirite arrive 
at that list often "kinds of statement" which runs : What 
(also substance, being, or thing). Of what sort. How great, 
Related to what, Where, When, Lying, Having, Doing, 
Suffering ? Possibly the shafts of his assailants, particu- 
larly the last-named, were directed against some heaven- 
scaling tower, but fly harmlessly over the more modest 
structure which is really there. Some of the examples 
used to illustrate the categories in the work devoted to 
them show us clearly what kind of special case the author 
had in his mind. Aristotle imagines a man standing before 
him, say in the Lyceum, and passes in successive review 
the questions which may be put and answered about him. 
All the predicates which can be attached to that subject 
fall under one or other of the ten heads, from the supreme 
question : What is the object here perceived ? down to 
such a subordinate question, dealing with mere externalities, 
as : What has he on ? What equipment or accoutrements, 
e.g. shoes or weapons ? Other questions are concerned with 
his qualities and his size (white, instructed in grammar, 
so many feet tall) ; under the head of relation (Related to 
what) come answers in which a term such as Greater or 
Less, Handsomer or Uglier, implies a reference to an 
object or objects of comparison. The " When " is explained 
by a Yesterday or To-morrow, the Doing and Suffering 
by the sentences : " He is cutting or burning," " He is 
being cut or burnt." The enumeration is intended to 
comprise the maximum of predicates which can be assigned 
to any thing or being. A maximum, be it observed ; for 
it can hardly be by chance that the full number is found 
in only two passages of the work, while the two which are 
at once the most special and the least important, those 
relating to Having, or possession, and to Lying, or atti- 
tude, are in every other case passed over without mention. 
And indeed, what sense could there be in speaking of the 


possessions of a stone or a piece of iron, or of the attitude 
of a sphere or a cube ? We further observe that several 
others of the categories are often lumped together under 
the one name of " Affections," while others are collectively 
designated " Motions." 

What was the object at which Aristotle aimed in this 
enumeration and division ? To this question many con- 
tradictory answers have been given. Our opinion is that 
it is only allowable to speak of subsidiary aims in 
addition to the one supreme purpose which the orderer 
and systematizer of the whole material of knowledge kept 
here and everywhere before his eyes. The relation of 
subject and predicate had been elucidated by Plato (cf. 
Vol. III. p. 174). The question then naturally arose: 
How many kinds of predication are there altogether, and 
what are they ? What are the sub-varieties of these main 
divisions .-' Are there or are there not opposites within 
each region of predication ? These questions are all treated 
at length in the work on the categories. But there was 
also a subsidiary purpose to be served ; a new weapon 
was to be provided for that art of disputation, known as 
dialectic, of whose enormous vogue and importance in those 
days it is difficult to form an adequate idea, and a remedy 
was to be sought for the confusion which had been pro- 
duced by the partly unconscious, partly intentional misuse 
of the idea of Being by the Eleatics and the Megarian 
eristics. The use of the word as denoting existence is 
therefore separated from its use as copula or connecting 
link, and the different applications of the copula are strictly 
bounded and^ defined. An adequate answer has to be 
given to the question : What can I mean whenever I say 
of a subject that it is something ? Here Aristotle, as his 
manner is, moves on a certain middle level of abstraction. 
He often suffers himself to be led by the forms of language, 
not always from inability to free himself from those bonds, 
but at least as often because the demands of dialectic will 
not allow him to quit its arena. An example will illus- 
trate the external character of many of his distinctions. 
Cognition or knowledge is described as a relative concept, 


because we speak of the " cognition or knowledge of some- 
tJiing" But the special departments of knowledge are not 
regarded as relative, because, for instance, the Greek words 
for "grammar" and " musical science " cannot have similar 
genitives associated with them. Thus a distinction is drawn 
between knowledge in general and the particular sciences, 
based solely on the fact that the objects of the latter are 
included in their names. Other and still more striking 
examples must be passed over just because they, too, are 
founded solely on linguistic distinctions. 

3. We are now prepared to consider how far the above- 
mentioned objections of modern philosophers are justified. 
They are not altogether without foundation if we regard 
the Stagirite's achievement ; they are, if we regard his aim. 
This was not, or was not chiefly, directed towards the 
utmost conceivable simplification, the acquisition of supreme 
types of concept. Aristotle frankly admits that the cate- 
gory of " quality " cannot be distinguished with complete 
accuracy from that of " relation." It is enough for him that 
the separate instances of " quality " are not expressed by 
predicates in which " relation " is directly implied. Indeed, 
he does not shrink from the admission that sometimes one 
and the same predicate can be placed under both categories. 
His classification is frequently governed by considerations 
of linguistic expediency, a circumstance which, it must be 
allowed, ought to have restrained him from applying it 
occasionally to ontological purposes. It thus appears, when 
closely examined, to include here too much, there too little, 
the very faults which are set in so glaring a light by Mill's 
contemptuous illustration. In the course of the investiga- 
tion "quality" falls into two main divisions: (temporary) 
states, and (permanent) properties. Some may possibly be 
inclined to contend that these two varieties ought not to 
appear independently in the table of categories, because 
they can be comprehended under the higher notion of 
quality. For, according to Aristotle's own testimony, some- 
thing of the same kind may be said about quality with 
regard to the higher notion of relation. Mill is both right 
and wrong when he calls the distinction between " Where " 


and " Lying " " a purely linguistic one." Right, in so far as 
the two categories are sub-varieties of a common genus 
{" spatial relation ") ; wrong, because they are yet suffi- 
ciently distinct to allow of mutually independent ques- 
tions and answers. The question, " Where is A ? " may be 
answered by "In this room;" the question, "What attitude 
is he in } " must have for answer, " Erect, bent, sitting, 
lying," etc. There is, however, not the remotest approach 
to truth in the statement that the ten categories, as a 
contemporary expresses it, are incapable of addition or 
diminution, much as the five regular solids. But while 
we find it surprising that Aristotle has here to a certain 
extent blended the necessary with the accidental, there are 
parallels, not far to seek, which mitigate our astonishment. 
Much the same kind of ro/e which is here played by the 
unessential "Having" falls to the lot of "Song-composition " 
among the six components of tragedy. The author of the 
" Poetics " includes this operatic element simply because, 
whatever the difficulties of deriving it from the nature of 
drama, he finds it present in the Greek drama of his 
experience. It appears in his enumeration on an equal 
footing with those elements which are inseparable from 
the representation of an action by living performers. At 
the same time, he omits all mention of the gesture-language 
of the actor, which, equally with " diction," belongs to the 
means of dramatic expression, simply because it neither 
aroused his interest nor provided him with an opportunity 
for valuable discussions. Similarly, in the present case we 
may distinguish between the necessary items in the table 
of categories, those which are deducible from the " Princi- 
pium " deemed absent by Kant, and the unessential ones 
which are gleaned from casual observation. Aristotle 
might have reasoned as follows : Concrete objects exist 
in time, and occupy measurable portions of space ; their 
quality is not exhausted in the complex of properties which 
we regard as constituting their essence and forming the 
content of their names ; lastly, they do not exist in isola- 
tion ; on the contrary, they are bound together by a 
wide-spun net of reciprocal relations and interactions. 


Accordingly, the whole range of statements that may be 
made about them falls under the heads of time, of place 
and spatial magnitude, of essence and quality, of relation, 
of the exercise and reception of influences. Had this been 
his procedure, he could not have failed to notice the sub- 
sidiary rank of the categories of " Having " and " Lying," 
and, according to the exigencies of his main purpose, he 
would either have excluded them altogether or admitted 
them under reservation, with an immediate reference to 
their unessential character and the limited sphere of their 
application. Here, however, just as in the " Poetics," he 
has obviously not worked on deductive lines ; he has been 
guided by the consideration, in the one case of the actual 
theatre, in the other of a supposed man standing before 
him ; questions of principle are introduced as an after- 
thought, by way partly of justification, partly of limitation. 




I. Through the door of the categories we enter into the 
edifice of logic. From the theory of propositions, handled 
in the work " On Interpretation," we pass to the theory of 
inferences (" Prior Analytics "), from this to the theory of 
proof (" Posterior Analytics "). After this come the books 
on " Topics," which may be described as an art of disputa- 
tion, of which the last book has the separate title " Sophistic 

Logic may be termed the least fruitful of all studies. 
To condemn it as absolutely sterile would be excessive 
and unjust. Such an injustice, indeed, is one into which 
we might easily be led by the reaction against the former 
over-appreciation of the science. Its founder is in curious 
contradiction with himself. At an enormous expense of 
original thought he investigated the forms of inference, 
distinguished them, and analyzed their finest ramifications. 
But in applying his genius to this great achievement his 
object was not exclusively, or even principally, to give an 
exhaustive description of a particular side of mental life. 
He believed, on the contrary, that he was constructing an 
intellectual mechanism of the first order, an " Organon " of 
all scientific investigation. And lo and behold ! in all 
his numerous works, covering the whole domain of know- 
ledge which was then accessible, he makes practically no 
use of the " kinds " (moods) and " figures " of the syllogism. 
He does not even shrink from the admission that all this 
great wealth of forms might be reduced to a few funda- 
mental ones without loss in practice. We may add that 
subsequent research, greatly as it has developed and refined 


its instruments, confirms him in this ; that the figures and 
the moods (the latter greatly multiplied by his immediate 
successors) have remained a collection of curiosities, pre- 
served by the history of science, but never put to practical 
use by science itself. 

In spite of all this, an exceptionally high value ought, 
we think, to be ascribed to this formal, or Aristotelian, logic, 
and that not only as a training-ground for subtle thinking, 
but also as a means of promoting correct thinking. It 
is, however, not so much in the main result of Aristotle's 
labours as in a by-product that we recognize this value. 
We allude to the doctrine of fallacies, the distinction 
between legitimate and illegitimate processes of thought, 
which runs through all the parts of the " Organon," as the 
logical works are called collectively, but finds its chief 
exposition in the book of " Sophistical Refutations." The 
theory of fallacies supplies us to-day, as it has supplied 
our predecessors through a long series of centuries, with the 
means of quickly and surely discriminating between true 
and false inferences, correct and incorrect deductions. To 
use Borne's witticism, it saves us from the need of going to 
the ocean every time we want to wash our hands. This 
is an argument in a circle, that is an equivocation ; such 
and such a proposition contains an inadmissible generaliza- 
tion, such an other one an illicit conversion of a conclusion 
justifiable in itself; here the negative is wrongly joined 
with the predicate instead of with the copula, there identity 
of kind or quality has been confused with numerical identity 
— if we are now able to frame judgments of this sort with 
rapidity, and compel their instant acceptance by our 
opponents, if we can promptly afiix to false statements 
labels attesting their falsity, all this is due to that formal 
logic which, as a whole and in the majority of its parts, is 
the work of Aristotle. 

The Aristotelian logic grew from a double root. It 
sprang, on the one hand, from the dialectical tourneys 
the sound of which filled the assembly of the people, the 
halls of justice, and the schools of the philosophers. On 
the other hand, its origin was in part due to the solitary 


meditations of those researchers who founded and developed 
the different branches of mathematics. The champion in 
the war of words needed a rule and a measure by the aid 
of which he might divide the good grain of reason from the 
chaff of showy pretence, guard himself against deception, 
and on occasion deceive his adversary in his turn. Mathe- 
matics, for its part, supplied model means of obtaining 
universal truths. It already possessed definitions, axioms, 
and theorems deduced from both, just as we find in Euclid's 
" Elements." How much Aristotle learnt in this school 
has not, to our knowledge, been anywhere duly recognized. 
In his works we meet with definitions of geometrical figures 
at every step ; one of Euclid's axioms, " When equals are 
taken from equals, the remainders are equal," sometimes 
occurs in his writings in a shortened form, as if worn down 
by use ; the highest principles of knowledge seem to him 
almost indistinguishable from the "axioms, as they are 
called in mathematics ; " his standing examples of indubi- 
table truths are taken from the theorems of geometry 
{e.g. the sum of the angles in every triangle is equal to 
two right angles) ; geometry, too, provides the constantly 
recurring type of impossibility (the incommensurability of 
the diagonal of a square with the side). It is clear that 
one of the main motives which influenced the creator of 
logic was a desire to extend to new and varied regions 
of thought a scientific rigour which the mind of man had 
already attained in one department of its activity. 

2. The kernel and centre of the Aristotelian logic is 
the theory of the Syllogism. In order to make its nature 
clear, we adduce an ancient and traditional example, set 
out in the form customary with Aristotle — • 

All men are mortal ; 
N.N. is a man ; 
N.N. is mortal. 

The three propositions, in the above order, are designated 
the major and minor propositions, and the conclusion ; the 
first two are also called premisses. The three terms or 
concepts which occur are distinguished as major, middle 


and minor. In our example, mortality is the major term, 
N.N. the minor, while humanity is the middle term which 
links them together. At this point a swift and precise 
thinker may perhaps interpose a series of objections. " How 
is it possible," such a reader may exclaim, "to conclude from 
the mortality of all men that of this particular man, who 
is in fact one among those all? Had I not been already 
convinced of his mortality, I ought not to have affirmed 
the major premiss, that all men are mortal. If, on the 
other hand, when I asserted that universal proposition I 
was in possession of full certainty with respect to this 
particular case of it as well as others, then I do not owe 
this certainty to the syllogism. The latter has thus revealed 
to me no truths that I did not know before." The syllogism 
is therefore so far from being the primary and fundamental 
form of all inference that, on the contrary, it yields no 
inference at all in the true sense of the word. It consti- 
tutes no advance from the known to the unknown : it is 
not a means to the acquisition of new truths. In all this, 
our supposed reader has said no more than was said of old 
by the Sceptics, and in modern times by a great number 
of thinkers, most emphatically, perhaps, by J, S. Mill. 

The first thought suggested by the above considerations 
is that the syllogism is an empty hocus-pocus, a solemn 
farce. But this is not a conclusion to satisfy a thinker 
whose acumen is combined with caution. The syllogism, 
as J. S. Mill in particular has contended, though certainly 
no instrument for the acquisition of truth, is an exceedingly 
valuable instrument for the examination and the authenti- 
cation of truth. In order to understand this verdict, let 
us return to our typical example. The mortality of N.N., 
who is now alive, is not and may not be inferred from the 
mortality of collective mankind, in which N.N. himself is 
included. His mortality, on the contrary, like that of all 
other men now living or yet to be born, is a consequence 
of the fact that hitherto all men have died, taken, it must 
be allowed, in conjunction with this other fact that these 
deaths belong to a class of phenomena within which abso- 
lute uniformity is the invi^riable rule. This proviso is 


indispensable. For there are other regularities as little 
subject to exception as the death of men and all living 
organisms (at any rate of the higher species), in the case 
of which, however, the possible report of an exception 
would by no means be necessarily received with absolute 
incredulity. For thousands and thousands of years our 
ancestors were acquainted with none but white swans ; 
it was not till the discovery of Australia that black ones 
became known, A novelty of this kind is not in the least 
degree a breach of the order of nature. Black individuals 
existed side by side with white among men, horses, and 
dogs ; the same difference might equally well occur in that 
particular species of birds. For, as numerous examples 
show, the presence or absence of a layer of pigment has 
little or no effect on the other qualities of a class of 

The inference from past to future mortality is, in short, 
an induction, the certainty of which depends on the number 
of the observed instances, and in still higher degree on 
their nature — that is, on their inclusion in a field within 
which no deviation from the norm is to be expected so 
long as the present order of nature continues. That this 
order cannot change is more than we, as men, are able 
to afifirm. We reach the maximum of certainty attainable 
by us when we trust experience in those regions where it 
has hitherto proved an absolutely reliable guide. 

What, then, is the value and the function of such a 
syllogism as the one stated above .-' With Mill, we answer 
that its service is the bringing before us the context of 
propositions affirmed by ourselves or others in such a form 
as to facilitate in the highest possible degree the examina- 
tion into their truth or trustworthiness. The inductions 
on which our knowledge of the nature of things is based 
are no doubt at bottom always inferences from particulars 
to particulars ; but, so far as they are well-founded, they 
admit of universal formulation just because they rest on 
properties of whole classes of things, while these properties, 
in their turn, rest on relations of cause and effect which 
obtain without exception. Now, this general formula brings 


before our eyes the whole width and compass of the state- 
ments that must be true if we have any right to assume 
their truth in this or that individual case. A fanatical 
believer in race, regardless of appearances to the contrary, 
denies the possibility of a particular negro being sus- 
ceptible of culture. He is refuted the moment we can 
compel him to give his denial the most general form, 
the syllogistic, and to found his argument on the explicit 
major premiss : " No negro is capable of culture ; " for we 
can immediately bring up against him the numerous bril- 
liant exceptions by which the actual facts contradict his 
alleged rule. In short : negligent thinking, limitation of 
the mental horizon, narrowness of outlook due to preju- 
dice, acquaintance with only a small region of the facts 
concerned — all these are plentiful sources from which a 
constant and copious stream of ill-judged assertions pours 
into life and science. To compel the makers of these 
assertions to justify them against the most comprehensive 
conceivable objections, and for this purpose to clothe them 
in the most general conceivable form, is one of the most 
effective means of which we are in possession for aiding 
truth in the fight against falsehood. Now, it is the 
syllogism as exemplified above which preserves us from 
assuming the truth of a proposition in one case while 
ignoring or contesting it in a precisely similar case ; it 
is the syllogism that ensures for us rigour of thought and 
consistency of statement. 

Rigour and consistency of thought — these are in truth 
the highest aims of the Aristotelian logic, at once its 
strength and its limitation. To preserve inward harmony 
among convictions already acquired is the great aim of the 
Stagirite's labours. It is true that above the syllogism 
there stands induction, whose function is to supply the 
knowledge which the syllogism utilizes and elaborates. 
Aristotle frankly admits as much, though he sometimes 
forgets the admission in the detailed exposition of his 
logical theories. But his treatment of the two main 
divisions of logic — and here we come to the main point 
— is altogether unequal. This inequality was due to the 


different degrees of development which had been attained 
in his day by the sciences which served as patterns in the 
two departments. Formal logic finds its model in mathe- 
matics. In the time of Aristotle this was the only branch 
of investigation conducive to the knowledge of nature 
which had been pursued beyond the most elementary 
stage. " In our day," so the Stagirite himself complains, 
" mathematics has set itself in the place of philosophy." 
Next to it came those subjects which had just then begun 
to be treated mathematically: astronomy, optics, mechanics, 
and harmony— subjects which Aristotle does in fact occa- 
sionally enumerate among the mathematical studies ; in 
so enumerating them, moreover, he does not speak, as we 
do, of " mathematical physics," but, with a significant 
inversion, of " physical mathematics." The experimental 
method, on the other hand, was still in its infancy. Of 
the strictly scientific experiment, of minutely accurate or 
numerically definite observation, hardly the first begin- 
nings as yet existed. What more natural than that the 
newly-created logic should follow the path, not of the 
inductive and experimental sciences, but of deductive 
mathematics .-* 

3. Our use of the word " deductive " reminds us of an 
important limitation which the above statement of the case 
requires. The stock example from which we set out does 
not exhaust all the possible applications of the syllogistic 
form of inference. This latter is by no means exclusively 
used for the subsumption of a particular case under a rule 
already established. The syllogistic form does not in 
itself require the major premiss to be of a more general 
character than the minor. This mode of reasoning can 
be applied to quite different, and, we may add, at least as 
useful purposes. It may provide the bond by which we 
join experiences to experiences, in order that we may so 
reach conclusions as to the relations subsisting between 
objective facts. The simplest case is that of what we may 
call indirect comparison. Two objects, A and B, by reason 
of their distance in space or time, or for some other cause, 
cannot be compared by direct observation. We establish 


the relation of equality between them, when this exists, by 
comparing each of them with a third object. This third 
object may be an instrument of weighing or measuring ; 
it may also be merely a numerical concept. 4 + 2 = 6, 
6 = 8 — 2; therefore 4+2 = 8 — 2: here we have an 
elementary piece of arithmetic in the form of a syllogism. 
A is greater than B, B is greater than C, therefore A is 
greater than C ; this inference, too, follows the same path. 
Further, the relation of magnitude that has to be ascer- 
tained need not be a relation of physical quantities ; 
relative values of every kind may be determined by the 
same indirect method, A is more beautiful, more praise- 
worthy, more serviceable than B, or the reverse ; the same 
relation subsists between B and C, and therefore also 
between A and C. Lastly, and chiefly : besides relations 
of equality and inequality, we must here include those of 
coexistence and succession, those relations, that is to say, 
of the knowledge of which our knowledge of the order of 
nature is compounded ; except that this form of inference 
is not always, as we might at first be inclined to think, 
applicable to the ascertainment of mere resemblance. A 
is like B, B is like C, therefore A is like C : here we have 
a fallacy. For since similarity is often equivalent to partial 
identity, it may well happen that the characters in which 
A and B resemble each other are not those in which B 
and C agree. 

If the Aristotelian logic is directed in greatly prepon- 
derating measure to the establishment of purely notional 
relations, if the creator of the syllogism employs this 
instrument almost exclusively by way of subsumption, that 
which here betrays itself is the long-continued influence of 
the Socratic and Platonic philosophy of concepts. Another 
manifestation of the same influence is to be seen in the 
circumstance that much greater strictness is observed in 
the combinations of ideas than in the ascertainment of the 
facts from which the ideas are derived. Ill-founded theories 
of nature and inadequate observations (thunder is a sound 
produced by a flame at its extinction ; only broad-leaved 
plants are spared the loss of their leaves in winter, and so 


forth) are met with not infrequently in the books of the 
" Organon." The looseness of the premisses is in striking 
contrast with the rigour of the deductions that are made 
from them. 

Let us summarize. The syllogism is by its nature 
not only a valuable means of testing knowledge, but also 
a means of acquiring new information. The derivation 
of the word from a Greek verb meaning " to combine " 
allows us to cover by it every combination of pieces of 
knowledge already possessed by which new knowledge is 
produced. Stating the matter so, we are in exact agree- 
ment with Aristotle himself, although in his hands this 
instrument of investigation became almost exclusively a 
process of subsuming less comprehensive under more 
comprehensive notions, and thus seemed to issue in 
what has been recently described as the embottement of 

4. Many a surprise awaits the reader of the " Topics." 
The first sections of this work arouse admiration and 
pleasure. The brilliance of the illumination which is shed 
on the subject, the masterly grasp and tireless manipula- 
tion of the material, delight even the most fastidious of 
readers. But before long misgivings make themselves 
felt, and occasionally even disgust. The examples weary 
by their monotony, and where they are absent the abstract- 
ness of the exposition is wearying in a still higher degree. 
As we have already remarked, the " Topics " is little else 
than a guide to the art of disputation. Had this work 
reached us anonymously, and without the hall-mark of 
the Aristotelian terminology, how severely we should have 
taken the author to task ! And if this handbook of mental 
fencing had been presented to us under the name of a 
Megarian or a so-called " Sophist," the historian of philo- 
sophy would certainly have subjected it to some very 
rough criticism. The vague and general recommendation 
of Protagoras to " make the weaker cause the stronger " 
has a very innocent sound in comparison with this accu- 
mulation of the means of deception, this arsenal crammed 
with the weapons of eristic. If justice is to prevail here. 


there are several points which must be considered. The 
conclusions to which our own reflections lead us will be 
found confirmed by explicit statements of Aristotle. 

In the forefront we place the pedagogic motive, the 
endeavour to arouse and strengthen the pupil's acumen 
by practice and habituation. But this motive does not 
by any means stand alone. Aristotle also desired to equip 
his hearers and readers for the disputations which had 
acquired an astonishing importance and extent in the 
philosophy schools of that age. He who disdained par- 
ticipation in those contests created an impression not of 
superiority, but of the reverse. He appeared unequal to 
the difficulties of such exercises, and therefore anxious to 
evade them. Nor was it enough to show shrewdness and 
presence of mind in answering insidious questions, and in 
the unravelling of artful sophisms. He who stopped at 
defence won no more than a half-success. It behoved 
him to take the offensive and play the man for his own 
honour and that of the school to which he belonged. 

It was with such aims as these that Aristotle, in early 
life as it would appear, composed this text-book of con- 
tentious dialectic, and included in it without scruple in- 
structions on the means of deceiving the adversary. Of 
all the artifices adapted to win victory in the tourney 
of words and thoughts, none is despised by him ; he is 
not above the use of equivocal words, the prolongation 
of the debate beyond the time-limit, the distraction of 
the opponent's attention by new and unexpected questions 
foreign to the main issue. The defensive tactics recom- 
mended make an equally unfavourable impression on 
us. No verbal quibble, one might almost say no pun, is 
clumsy enough to be despised by the Stagirite as beneath 
his dignity. The exactitude in the use of words which 
he inculcates as a means of escaping dialectical snares 
and pitfalls is not seldom exaggerated into pedantry. 
In one passage we find him criticizing the definition of 
astonishment as an " excess of surprise " (instead of " ex- 
cessive surprise "), on this ground among others that there 
can also be an excess of astonishment, which the definition 


would require us to describe absurdly as an excess of 
excess. In face of such subtleties we ask ourselves at 
times whether they are to be ascribed solely to the didactic 
motive, the desire to instruct the student and to equip him 
for the tournament of ideas, or whether they are not rather 
to be put down to the account of an eristic strain in the 
temperament of the philosopher himself. That there was 
such a strain can hardly be doubted, as other reasons show. 
Even in the works of his maturest years, to which the 
" Poetics " and the " Politics " belong, traces of a petti- 
fogging spirit are apparently to be discerned. But the 
zest with which the Stagirite on occasion criticizes even 
himself enables us to recognize the love of conflict as 
the essential factor in this supposed defect. For the 
rest, Aristotle was aware that the meaner devices of the 
dialectical duel leave the contestants in some danger of 
a permanent taint. He warns against this danger ; and 
we seem to discern behind his words an admission that 
he was not proof against it himself. Besides this, there 
are many passages in which an inward discord betrays 
itself. Thus in one place emphasis is laid on the necessity, 
when dealing with an unscrupulous assailant for whom 
all weapons are good, of using any and every weapon 
in the defence ; but elsewhere the recognition of the same 
necessity is accompanied by the reservation : " But it is not 
quite decent." The main impression with which we close 
the " Topics " — a work, by the way, which the historians 
of philosophy usually pass over in what might almost be 
called an embarrassed silence — is one of astonishment at the 
extraordinary mental agility and suppleness of its author. 
Results of which Plato had at best described the first 
dawnings arc here used by the author as though familiar 
by long possession and thoroughly worked out in every 
direction. By the side of much that is diffuse and void 
of substance we find much that is refined and concentrated ; 
indeed, compressed and condensed up to the limits of 
intelligibility. At the same time, that other and less 
favourable impression remains, that Aristotle was only 
too often led into the misuse of his intellect, partly by 


the natural impulse to exercise his dialectical skill, partly 
by the eristic fashions of his day. 

Near the close of the main work on logic, a fine image, 
and one of great significance, presents itself. As, when 
the tide of battle turns, first one stout-hearted warrior 
holds his ground, then a second, a third, and continually 
more and more ; so in the mind the first sense-impression 
of which a copy remains is joined by a second, then a 
third, and others in increasing numbers, till from the sum- 
mation of retained perceptions there arises the completed 
structure of an experience. For out of perception there 
is first produced memory, while experience is the result 
of repeated memories. Out of experience, in its turn, or 
out of all the " universal that being a one as well as many, 
has become firmly rooted in the mind," there proceed art 
and science, where by " science " pure theory is meant, 
and by " art " theory applied to practice. In this context 
it is stated with express emphasis that it is " sense- 
perception " that generates universal notions, and that we 
necessarily obtain all our "first principles" by "induction." 
The Asclepiad in Aristotle has here gained the victory 
over the Platonist. We will now devote a little time to 
this polar antithesis in the mind of the Stagirite. 




I. We have already spoken of Aristotle's power of and 
delight in observation as an inheritance from his medical 
ancestors. The extent of the field in which his curiosity 
disported itself is far too extensive to admit of a summary 
survey. His ruling passion is a craving for information. 
He excuses his faults by his " thirst for knowledge," just 
as a ruler or a warrior might justify his misdoings by the 
overwhelming force of his impulses to action. It is after 
his own image that he figures his deity, whose life is pure 
contemplation ; just as among human lots he sets the 
contemplative life in the foremost place. " We prefer the 
spectator's pleasures to almost all others : " it is thus that, 
thinking to describe human nature in general, he strikes 
the keynote of his own character. From boyhood he must 
have been an earnest watcher of the heavens ; otherwise 
he could not have written : " For more than fifty years we 
have only twice seen a lunar rainbow." At the same time, 
he is familiar with all trades and crafts, with that of the 
embroiderer who confuses his colours by artificial light, 
and with that of the gardener who sprinkles his plants, not 
only with water but with an admixture of earth as well. 
He has noticed that at some distance from a boat in 
motion we do not hear the stroke of the oar till after we 
have seen the oar leave the water. Here, however, we have 
to make an important distinction. 

By the side of observations which astonish by their 
refinement and certainty, which move a Cuvier or a Darwin 
to enthusiastic praise, we meet with malobservations 
which are still more astonishintr. It was not till the 


century just past, that Johannes Miiller rediscovered, in 
the body of the smooth pike, the yolk-sac resembling a 
mammalian placenta, which is described by Aristotle. A 
chorus of admiration naturally arose from the zoologists. 
But their praises are silenced when they learn that the 
same Aristotle believed the brain to be cold and to act as 
a refrigerating apparatus in opposition to the heart ; that he 
affirmed the number of the teeth to be dependent on sex, 
and to be greater in man than in woman. Thus we are 
confronted by inaccuracy in extreme degree as well as by 
malobservations which, unlike many others, are not to be 
explained by the imperfection of the ancient processes and 
instruments. The explanation of the remarkable contrast 
can hardly be other than the following. The universal 
student and encyclopaedist over-rated his own powers. He 
must have derived his knowledge as often, nay, much 
oftener, from books and popular tradition than from his 
own observation. He did not by any means always judge 
rightly of the worth or the worthlessness of these written 
and oral statements. He repeatedly censures the worthy 
Herodotus as a "teller of tales ;" but the reproach recoils 
on an author who tells of the hen-partridge being im- 
pregnated by a breath of air blowing on her from the male ; 
or of ravens, sparrows, and swallows turned white by cold ; 
or of the reddening, though to ever so slight a degree, 
of a mirror breathed on by a woman at the time of her 

Such failures on the critical side are probably not 
unconnected with a peculiar feature of our philosopher's 
mental physiognomy, one which is not at all the product 
of shallowness. He does not, as a matter of principle, 
adopt too sceptical an attitude towards popular opinions. 
Following the law of reaction, he stands in a certain 
opposition to the representatives of the storm and stress 
period of enlightenment. He accordingly loves to find the 
results of his speculations prefigured in the naive beliefs of 
the people, and he frequently seeks corroboration for his 
conclusions in current opinion, in popular proverbs, even in 
etymologies, which are sometimes of the most venturesome 


type. Indeed, he goes on occasion so far as to identify 
popular belief, when purged of its inner contradictions 
and, so to speak, brought into inner harmony, with 
objective truth. To the same origin may be ascribed his 
constant references to linguistic usage, the ever-recurring 
" We say so-and-so " — an appeal to that general opinion 
in which he finds, no doubt far in excess of what is 
admissible, a residue of reasoned conviction. All flat 
contradiction and trenchant negation is abhorrent to his 
inmost nature, a temper which is at the root of much that 
is good and much that is bad in his mode of thought. 
" That is true in one sense, false in another " — " In one sense 
these men are right, in another they are wrong "■ — phrases 
of this kind recur quite frequently, and testify unmistak- 
ably to the fineness of his sense for shades of thought, to 
his dread of crude one-sidedness. We are reminded now 
and then of a very modern writer, Ernest Renan, who for 
his part stands on the shoulders of Hegel, and shows a 
germ of Heraclitean thought carried to full development. 
This peculiarity of Aristotle's mind, as operative in the 
sphere of mental science, both saved him from many 
grave errors and impeded the development of great 
originality. In the sphere of natural science, the same 
tendency exercised an influence on his investigations 
which seems to have been entirely injurious. It led him to 
renounce the triumphs which the boldness of a Pythagoras 
or a Democritus had gained over the appearances presented 
to the senses and over agelong habit. It may be set down 
to his lack of scientific courage that he contented himself 
with the revived popular physics of Empedocles, including 
the four elements, and that he even replaced the earth in 
that position at the centre of the universe from which it had 
long before been ousted. 

2. In spite of all these impediments, the inductive 
spirit had gained great power in Aristotle, or at least had 
received his cordial recognition. An anthology of expres- 
sions might be compiled in which the Stagirite presents 
the appearance of a rigid empiric, of a researcher wholly 
devoted to the cult of facts and filled with the deepest 


distrust of mere dialectical speculation. What could sound 
more Baconian than the saying with which he closes his 
discussion of the process of generation among bees : " The 
facts on this subject have not yet been sufficiently ascer- 
tained ; if ever they are, it will be necessary to trust our 
senses more than our reasonings, and the latter only when 
the results are in agreement with the phenomena." No one 
could set a higher value on the new " eye " that experience 
provides us with. Repeatedly he takes up the cause of 
the Atomists, against Plato no less than against the Eleatics. 
It is not that he merely champions one particular theory 
in preference to another ; in both cases he pierces through 
to the fountain-head of truth or of error, and once more 
the antithesis of facts and notions, of observation and 
reasoning, occupies the foreground of his thought. He 
contends that, measured by the standard of facts, the 
Eleatic doctrine, plausible as its arguments may sound, 
borders on insanity. Certainly the expressions he uses 
with reference to his master are not quite so strong. But 
he frankly accords to the Democritean methods precedence 
even over the Platonic. He describes a preponderant 
concern with notions as an actual danger to the investigator 
of nature, inasmuch as it estranges him from the contem- 
plation of reality, perpetually confines his outlook to a 
narrow circle of facts, and thus leads him to the construc- 
tion of inadequate theories (cf. Vol. I. p. 319). This, too, 
the refrain continues, is the way we distinguish between 
the investigation of nature and mere ratiocination : he who 
lives and works in the observation of nature is able to 
frame hypotheses which bind together wide circles of facts 
— that is to say, fertile hypotheses, the exact opposite of 
the " random " hypotheses of which we shall soon hear. 
It is by following up the paths opened by Democritus 
and Leucippus, he says, that a methodical and systematic 
explanation of natural processes has been found possible. 
Such explanation has been based on a real foundation, 
and has not involved doing violence to the facts of sense- 
perception after the manner of the Eleatics ; it has not 
required the denial of generation and destruction, of the 


motion and the multiplicity of things. Nor are the works 
of our philosopher lacking in expressions of humble self- 
depreciation and resignation in which reference is made 
to the " limited resources " of research and to a more 
fortunate time to come. Even " small successes," he says, 
must suffice in respect of the "great riddles." Should 
others some day succeed in devising stricter methods and 
more cogent proofs, to such men abundant thanks will be 
due. But at the present time — so he declares emphati- 
cally in two different passages — it is right for us to say 
what we think to be true. If our investigations go wide 
of the mark, we are not on that account to be charged 
with presumption ; we ought rather to be praised for the 
zeal which has carried us away into error. 

3. We now turn to the other side of the picture. Such 
expressions as those just cited have not failed of their 
effect. Taken in combination with the truly great services 
rendered by Aristotle to certain branches of biology, they 
have created a widespread belief that he was an investigator 
of nature in the modern sense. Nothing could be further 
from the truth. We have already noted that his researches 
often rested on an altogether insecure basis of fact. But 
his interpretation of the facts, whether real or presumed, 
is frequently quite arbitrary and governed by preconceived 
opinions. We are amazed by the inexhaustible resources 
of his extraordinary ingenuity ; but the impression pro- 
duced is very far from being that of a disciplined mind 
controlling its fancies and bowing beneath the hard yoke 
of facts. 

" This must necessarily be so ; " " that is impossible " — 
such authoritative dicta are especially frequent in the 
physical works. In most cases they are simply the expres- 
sion of old habits of thought which prevent him from 
acquiescing in new theories, though they may be perfectly 
correct and well founded. Two memorable instances of 
this kind of supposed rediictio ad absitrduiti may con- 
veniently be mentioned here. The first is directed 
against the hypothesis of empty space, the existence of 
which was affirmed by the Atomists. In a vacuum, so 


Aristotle argues with perfect justice, all bodies would 
necessarily fall with equal velocities : that, however, is 
impossible ; therefore empty space is non-existent ! This 
refutation strikes him as so convincing that he cannot 
refrain from following it up with a gibe : " Thus their 
supposed void turns out to have nothing in it." Secondly, 
the theory of respiration arrived at by Anaxagoras, Demo- 
critus, and Diogenes is repudiated on the strength of, 
among others, the following argument : If aquatic animals 
breathed, there would have to be air in the water, which 
is among the impossibilities. 

This glaring contrast between purpose and execution, 
this continual backsliding of the professed empiric into the 
bad a priori habits which he himself detects so readily 
and condemns so severely in the case of the Eleatics, the 
Pythagoreans, and his own teacher, Plato (cf. Vol. I. p. no) 
— all this, combined with the suspicion which now and 
again seems to flash through his mind, that his labours 
were in vain, presents us with an almost tragic picture. 
But the feelings so aroused ought not to lead us to gloss 
over or disguise the truth of the case. This can hardly be 
made plainer than by a study of Aristotle's doctrine of 
the elements, an account of which will now be given for 
the sake of greater completeness in the delineation of his 
intellectual character which we are now attempting. 




The Aristotelian Doctrine of the Elements. 

I. ONE-tcnth experience, nine-tenths speculation — it is thus 
that we may not unjustly describe the contents of the 
works which Aristotle devoted to physical and cognate 
subjects. By the word " speculation," be it observed, we 
do not mean the legitimate application of the deductive 
method, the drawing of consequences from well-established 
premisses. That would have been mathematical physics, 
the foundations for which were in Aristotle's time only 
being laid. What we have in mind is rather the a priori 
method in the bad sense, which proceeds from arbitrary 
assumptions or natural prejudices, and thence spins its 
unending web by means of a dialectic which impresses 
by its ingenuity and energy, but yields no results of real 
worth. The Stagirite is truly unsurpassable in wealth of 
expedients, in dialectical agility. But for one who sought 
to explain Nature this was a fatal endowment. Far better, 
for a worker in this field, is the simplicity and directness 
of mind that clearly and surely perceives the opposition 
between fact and hypothesis, that does not seek time after 
time to blunt the edge of such contradictions by ingenious 
auxiliary assumptions or shifting-hued comparisons, thus 
freeing itself from the spur which would otherwise drive 
it on from failures to half-successes and thence to wholly 
successful solutions. If Aristotle had had less ingenuity, 
and if his intellect had been of a less forensic character, 
then — as we have good ground for conjecturing — his ex- 
planation of Nature would have been far more valuable. 

vA/^vnya number of the elements . 63 

He himself falls under the censure which he applies to the 
Pythagoreans : " It is not difficult to set up random hypo- 
theses, to spin them out to great length, and to weave them 

2. In his doctrine of the elements Aristotle follows 
Empedocles, except that, like Philolaus and like Plato in 
his old age, he adds a fifth element, the "ether" or 
heavenly substance. In one of his expositions he refers 
only to ether, fire, and earth, supporting this trinity of 
elements by the following speculative considerations. 
There are two fundamental geometrical forms, the circle 
and the straight line. To these must correspond the 
fundamental forms of motion, and that, too, in such a way 
that each fundamental substance has a mode of motion of 
its own. For the heavenly substance this is motion in a 
circle ; is it not in a perpetual circle that we see the celes- 
tial sphere revolve ? The straight line, however, has two 
directions. To the one of these corresponds the ascending 
element of fire, to the other the element of downward- 
falling earth. We note that the words " up " and " down " 
are not here used in the traditional sense, but denote move- 
ment from and to the centre of the universe, the motionless 
earth. In the system so constructed no room was left for 
water and air. It is not till later, and then, we may 
almost say, with reluctance, that Aristotle admits these 
two elements, as supposed " necessary " intermediate stages 
between fire and earth. 

In another work wc find a diff"erent construction, in 
which the heavenly substance is omitted and the existence 
of the four remaining elements supported by the following 
argument. The numberless qualities of matter may be 
reduced, it is claimed, to four fundamental qualities. These 
are those favourites of ancient natural philosophy : the 
warm and the cold, the dry and the moist. Now, out of 
any four terms there can be formed six combinations, two 
at a time {ah, ac, ad, be, bd, cd). In the present case, how- 
ever, two of these six may be ignored ; for opposites like 
warm and cold, moist and dry, cannot be combined. There 
remain, then, four pairs : the dry-warm, the dry-cold, the 


moist-warm, the moist-cold. Thus the quaternion of ele- 
ments (fire, earth, air, and water) is obtained and justified. 
Aristotle does not spare his predecessors the reproach that 
none of them had proved that there could only have been 
just this number of elements, no more and no fewer. We 
need not once more tell our readers that this Empedoclean 
doctrine of the elements is a mere outgrowth of primitive 
popular physics, that it takes the three modes of aggrega- 
tion (the solid, the liquid, and the expansive), together with 
a phenomenon associated with the third, for fundamental 
substances, and declares them to be the only fundamental 
substances. On the other hand, there is in this revival 
of the Empedoclean theory hardly any mention of the 
really valuable contribution contained in it, the anticipa- 
tion, fanciful in details but fundamentally sound, of the 
modern doctrine of chemical proportions or equivalents 
(cf. Vol. I. pp. 230-234). 

3. The attentive reader will not have failed to observe 
that both in the doctrine of the elements itself, and in the 
theory of " natural places " on which it rests, Aristotle is 
a docile pupil of his master, Plato (cf. Vol. III. pp. 84, 223, 
224). If both of them here rejected the views to which the 
Atomists had won their way, if the Stagirite eagerly assailed 
the theory of "displacement" or of "expulsion " (iKOXixptg) 
which Democritus had already arrived at, they blocked up 
for themselves the path which might have led them to 
the right understanding of the most fundamental natural 
phenomena. Closely connected with this rejection is their 
return to the old delusion which regards the earth as rest- 
ing at the centre of the universe. It is true that mitigating 
circumstances may be urged in excuse of this grave lapse. 
But still it was a long step backwards, retrograde even in 
comparison with that doctrine of the central fire and the 
earth's revolution round it, which, though arbitrary in 
details, yet cleared away the fatal error of a central and 
motionless earth (cf. Vol. I. pp. 113 seq.). Thus, to use 
the language of Schopenhauer, " a truth of the highest 
importance, already once acquired, was lost again to man- 
kind for nearly two thousand years." 


The doctrine of " natural places " entangled Aristotle 
not only in errors of the greatest magnitude, but also in 
irreconcilable contradictions with other theories of his, 
also derived from Plato — contradictions which may more 
readily be excused in the poet-thinker than in the sys- 
tematist who boasts so loudly of his logical precision. 
Elsewhere he followed the path trodden by Plato in the 
"Phaedrus" (cf. Vol. III. pp. 45, 46), and allowed matter 
no motion except what comes to it from without. The 
question thus forces itself upon us how this depotentializa- 
tion of matter, if we may call it so, this denial to matter of 
all innate impulse towards motion, can be reconciled with 
the supposed upward striving of fire, the downward striving 
of earth, the tendency of air and water to the middle regions. 
To this question we never receive any satisfactory answer. 
A possible expedient would have been to explain the 
" natural " or peculiar " places " of the fundamental sub- 
stances as their original home, the habitation assigned to 
them by the Deity at the beginning of things, from which 
they had later been in part dislodged by " violent " or 
"unnatural" motions. Their striving would then have 
been at most a reflux or return to the order of things 
instituted by the Deity. But this expedient was barred, 
because Aristotle acknowledged no Cosmogony, or origin 
of the world in Time. There is one single passage in which 
we meet with what seems to be at any rate an attempt 
to solve the difficulty. But the attempt is miserably 
inadequate. It sounds almost like a play on words when 
what we may call the circulation of matter (earth becomes 
water, water becomes air, and vice versd) is connected by 
the philosopher in the vaguest manner with the circular 
motion of the heavens, and thus (so we may complete his 
thought) with the Deity, which, as " P'irst Mover," is the 
immediate cause of that unceasing rotation of the celestial 

This attempt is made a little more intelligible to us by 

the reference which follows it to another circular motion, 

that in the oblique circle of the ecliptic, and to the varying 

relations which the sun, by travelling in this path, is caused 



to assume to the different parts of the earth. The alternate 
increase and diminution so occasioned in the sun's heat 
effects, as it is hinted, in the course of the changing seasons 
a transition of one form of matter into another. By pro- 
gressive cooling fire becomes air ; water, earth ; the reverse 
changes take place in consequence of progressive heating. 
The transformation of the substances thus brought about 
removes them in the first instance from their " natural 
places," and then awakes their slumbering tendency to 
return to their homes. Now, so far as the motion of the 
sun in its path is to be referred, like all other movements 
of the heavenly bodies, to an impulse received from God as 
the First Mover, to this extent the divine activity enters 
into the cause of these transformations and movements of 
matter. Still, with whatever good will we follow up (as 
we have done above) the hints of the Stagirite, the un- 
solved, and, as we think, insoluble question remains : *' How 
is the nisus of the elements towards their natural places to 
be harmonized with that absolute passivity of matter which 
is elsewhere so emphatically asserted } " 

4. So far we have spoken of " elements " just as 
Aristotle himself does. But the true content and the full 
value of the doctrine of the elements were lost to him. 
The earlier nature-philosophers, men whom Aristotle 
treats with an undeserved contempt, had believed in the 
changeless persistence of the fundamental substances or 
elementary bodies ; they had denied all genesis and 
destruction in the strict sense, resolving these processes 
into composition and separation ; in this connexion, too, 
they had distinguished between primary and secondary 
qualities. P'or views of this kind we may search the 
physical writings of Aristotle in vain. Instead, we shall 
find a frank and emphatic repudiation of these attempts 
to make the course of Nature intelligible. The main argu- 
ment on which he bases this rejection is the following. 
The mere separation and combination of qualitatively un- 
changeable fundamental substances — such, approximately, 
is his statement of the case — cannot be reconciled with 
the facts. Dark comes from light, and light again from 


dark ; this would be impossible if fire could not become 
water and water fire. There is here a change, not of 
merely accidental conditions, but of essential properties ; 
the notions of genesis and annihilation are therefore 
indispensable. In criticizing this argument we have to 
distinguish between two things. It is quite in accordance 
with the general bent of Aristotle's mind that in dealing 
with the world of matter, as in other departments of 
thought, he keeps to the solid ground of ascertained facts 
instead of endeavouring to penetrate beyond the surface of 
appearances by the aid of hypotheses. It is far more sur- 
prising that he should have retained the already-mentioned 
error of Empedocles and the popular physics, by which the 
three states of matter and the accompaniment of one of 
them were identified with primary substances, that in 
distinctions based on imperfect views of natural processes 
he should have imagined frontiers drawn by Nature herself, 
and that, consequently, he should have regarded the change 
of these forms as a true transmutation of elements. Two 
very different motives thus impelled him to abandon 
valuable conquests of his predecessors and to reject a 
theory of Nature which had already been in their hands a 
fruitful aid to investigation and which was destined in the 
course of time to wear the same character in ever-increasing 
degree. But, while he rejected it, he did not do so without 
vacillation and hesitancy, or even, we may perhaps add, 
without an inward struggle. On repeated occasions he 
takes his stand, as we have seen, on the side of the 
Atomists. He defends their doctrine against objections 
of the more superficial order ; he praises their method, as 
we have also seen, in opposition to the mere investigation 
of concepts ; and the blow which he thus aims at Plato 
falls upon himself. But in the main and in the end he 
recedes from their position. It seems " impossible " to 
him that the truth should be what the Atomists had rightly 
surmised — that all genesis and destruction are such only in 
appearance, that the facts behind the names are simply the 
combination and the separation of material particles. He 
does not, indeed, go so far as to believe in an absolute 


origination of matter ; but he revives the long-exploded 
notion of its magical transformation. To use the technical 
expressions of our own times, he denies the qualitative but 
not the quantitative constancy of matter. 

In thus contrasting Aristotle's praise of investigation 
on the lines of experience with his flagrantly opposite 
practice, we have given, we think, the best possible illus- 
ration of the dual character of his mind. Our purpose 
was especially well suited by his doctrine of elements, 
founded as it is on speculative and arbitrary assumptions, 
inconsistent and thoroughly retrograde in its development. 
We must, however, be on our guard against illegitimate 
generalizations. The psychology of Aristotle is not so 
retrograde as his physics. Far more favourable are the 
impressions that await us as soon as we turn from the 
inorganic to the organic world. And even where his sub- 
ject overlaps the domain of physics, in his theory of the 
senses, he displays a fineness of vision which had been 
denied to his predecessors, even to the greatest of them, 

It is not here, however, that the mind of Aristotle is 
seen at its best. The brightest display of that lucid intel- 
lect is rather to be sought for in the chapters on the highest 
principles of proof, which are subjoined to the logical 
works. The thought which there finds expression is irre- 
proachable in its rigour and marred by no discords. It 
has learnt extreme wariness in the school of debate, and 
the whetstone of dialectical practice has sharpened its 
edge. To this part of his work we now turn, thus resuming 
a thread which we dropped at the close of an earlier 




I. Aristotle designates these principles by the name 
of "axioms," an expression which he borrows from the 
mathematical text-books of his day, and employs in a 
generalized sense. He does not attempt an exhaustive 
enumeration of them, and it is only one of their number, 
"the most certain of all," the so-called Principle of Contra- 
diction, that he treats with anything like completeness. 
In this he had been preceded, so he tells us, by "some 
of the nature-philosophers," we do not know which, Plis 
object is to forestall dialectical trickery by a careful and 
cautious formulation of the principle which will secure it 
against misuse. " It is impossible," so runs his enunciation, 
" that the same [predicate] should at the same time and in 
the same relation both belong and not belong to the same 
[subject]." The qualifying phrases " at the same time " and 
" in the same relation " arc followed, in the original, by 
references to other limitations, the nature of which is not 
fully stated, but which are also intended to cut away the 
ground from captious dialectic. Certain utterances of 
Ileraclitus, which we need hardly recall to the reader's 
memory, served Aristotle as concrete examples of the 
opposite thesis. As types of that revolt against sound 
common sense it is clear that he has in his mind such 
propositions as : " We are and we are not," or " Good and 
evil are the same " (cf. Vol. I. p. 68). The purpose of the 
qualifications in the formula becomes at once apparent. 
To Heraclitus and his followers Aristotle was ready to 
reply that a thing is not " good and bad," but good in one 
respect or at one time, bad in another respect or at another 


time. The river is not the same and different ; it is the 
same in one sense, as fed from the same source or occu- 
pying the same channel, and different in another sense, 
as a continually renewed body of water. To deny this 
fundamental principle with full consciousness of its meaning 
is, he says, impossible ; if Heraclitus professes disbelief, 
then " what a man says is not necessarily what he really 
believes." Those pointedly paradoxical utterances, how- 
ever, do not seem to Aristotle so dangerous as their source, 
the doctrine of flux itself and the cognate doctrines of 
other nature-philosophers touching growth and change. 
Hence arise doubts as to the existence of unchanging 
objects of knowledge and fixed truths. Were these doubts 
well founded, the seeker after truth would be like a boy 
snatching at birds and butterflies. 

Another principle which he treats with less fulness but 
equal emphasis is that which has become famous under the 
name of the Excluded Third or Middle. According to his 
statement of it, [|_Everything must be either affirmed or 
denied/^ That is to say, a given predicate either applies 
or does not apply to a given subject ; between the two 
assertions no room remains for any third or middle course. 
The two principles may be combined in the following 
enunciation : " It is impossible that A should simultane- 
ously be b and not be <5' ; it is necessary that A should 
cither be b or not be ^." Perhaps the simplest way of 
expressing them is to say : " Of two contradictory asser- 
tions only one can be true ; moreover one of them vuist be 
true and the other false." (The principle of the excluded 
middle gives rise to objections which are worth closer 
consideration. The peremptory " either — or " is some- 
times revolted against, not always unjustly. Extreme 
judgments, it may be urged, are mostly erroneous ; the 
truth is often in the middle ; the most important thing is 
to hit the precise shade, the individual character, which in 
no two cases is the sam^j Considerations of this kind do 
indeed narrow the field within which the axiom may be 
applied ; but they do not diminish its legitimacy, which 
can only be lost by misuse. This occurs when the negative 


proposition ceases to be the mere strict negation of its 
companion positive, or when the latter is insufficiently 
definite. A negation which simply annuls the correspond- 
ing affirmation, and does not replace it by the faintest 
shadow of a new positive statement, gives rise to what the 
logician calls "contradictory" opposition, as distinguished 
from "contrary" opposition, by which is understood the 
relation between positive states or qualities shown by 
experience to be mutually exclusive. Nor is the principle 
of the Excluded Middle affected by the instances which 
may be adduced of a subject and a predicate which cannot 
be joined together in any intelligible sense, where, there- 
fore, the denial of such union gives the impression not 
merely of an idle but of a meaningless utterance. Let 
us suppose that some one takes a fancy to link together 
phenomena belonging to fundamentally different and 
entirely unconnected regions, and that we reject the com- 
bination by a negative proposition. We should then have 
confronting each other two such statements as : " The high 
C is violet," and " The high C is not violet." It might be 
(and has been) objected that in such instances the affirma- 
tion and the negation are equally void of meaning, and 
that therefore the necessity which the axiom postulates of 
accepting either one or the other ceases to exist. Such 
a judgment seems to us to take insufficient account of 
the distinction between contradictory and contrary opposi- 
tion. The pure and simple denial is justified even in this 
instance ; it is far from being meaningless, though it may 
be misleading. It will mislead, will, indeed, drive us full 
sail to the realm of nonsense, if with as much as a hyphen 
we join the words " not " and " violet," thus giving the 
impression that in denying a particular colour to a sound 
we are thereby ascribing to it some other colour. 

The highest degree of this misleading quality is found 
in those instances where not merely is the combination of 
the subject with the predicate void of meaning, but the 
subject itself is a figment or non-entity. To questions 
such as : " Is the man in the moon bearded ? " even the 
negative reply seems at first incorrect, because the sentence, 


",The man in the moon is not bearded," seems to include 
a recognition of his existence. But even this objection, 
we think, is not really valid. The true import of such a 
negative assertion is nothing more than that the supposed 
predicate does not apply to the supposed subject, even if 
for the simple reason that the subject does not exist. The 
two principles, as we hold, remain intact ; and it is a 
pleasure to add that Aristotle himself, by sharply distin- 
guishing the different kinds of opposition — contrary, 
contradictory, and, not least of all, privative — did his best 
to guard against their misuse. 

Such misuse is exemplified by the metaphysicians who 
have imagined themselves enabled by the principle of the 
Excluded Middle to overstep the bounds of experience and 
penetrate into the realm of the transcendental. Thus in 
the last century Sir William Hamilton armed himself with 
this magic disjunction, and set before transcendent entities 
(such as matter in itself or the Deity) the alternative of 
possessing either such and such a definite quality, or else 
its opposite, both in those cases where we are able to decide 
one way or the other, and in those where we must leave 
the question open. All such audacities come to an end 
when it is recognized that the principle of the Excluded 
Middle offers us the choice, not between contrary opposites, 
but simply and solely between a positive statement and the 
pure negation of it, the latter to contain no jot or tittle 
of affirmative meaning. Thus we are altogether unable to 
assert that because motion is not an attribute of a par- 
ticular entity, that entity must therefore abide in eternal 
rest ; rest and motion may possibly be categories which 
have no application whatever to the entity in question. 
Aristotle himself recognized this truth, and gave it em- 
phatic expression — a fact which in our opinion is greatly to 
his honour. 

2. But if we abstain from all ontological misuse of these 
principles, what is left of them ? Without doubt they 
possess the highest universality ; the question is whether 
their fruitfulness stands on the same level. They are the 
recognition of self-evident truths, against which no serious 


doubt has ever been raised. That every one tacitly admits 
these principles the moment he speaks, were it only with 
himself, that he cannot violate them without rendering all 
intelligent discussion impossible, without indeed becoming 
a mere " block " instead of a thinking and speaking being 
— these are facts which the Stagirite not only admits, but 
which he makes the basis of those maxims which only 
" want of education " would attempt to demonstrate. What 
value, then, can attach to the express recognition of a 
truth which it has never occurred to any one to deny ? 
In the first place, we answer, it has for Aristotle the value 
of a dialectical weapon. The adversary having been driven 
into a corner, how is a confession of defeat to be wrung 
from him .'' By compelling him to express in clear words 
the incompatibility of his thesis with some truth of which 
the denial has already been made impossible to him. Thus 
the seal is set on the dialectical triumph, and the unsuc- 
cessful disputant is robbed of the last refuge which might 
have remained to him if his contradictory statements could 
have passed unnoticed. 

The principle of the Excluded Middle, more especially, 
carries on its front clear evidence of its origin in the dialec- 
tical tournament. It is hardly an effect of chance that its 
author enounced it in a form which obliged us to translate 
it into objective language before presenting it to the reader. 
" That one must either affirm or deny everything " — such 
words strike us as being primarily an instruction to the 
participants in a debate. And this, no doubt, was the 
source from which Aristotle drew the rule. Whether a 
thesis has to be maintained or an opponent's case to be 
destroyed, nothing is more fatal to the success of the 
logical duel than that the adversary should refuse to 
commit himself, that, using such phrases as " yes and 
no," or " I do not know," he should evade giving the 
answer which was meant to lead on to new questions 
and answers, so forming an essential link in the intended 
chain of argument. In reality, of course, such evasion is 
by no means necessarily a mere trick of dialetic ; it may 
be the simple and natural result of ignorance or of doubt ; 


and these states of mind play a large and legitimate part 
in human thought, not only as products of insufficient 
education or unfamiliarity with the matter in hand, but 
as derived from the imperfection of human faculties in 
general and their inadequacy for the solution of the world- 
riddle. Temporary or permanent doubt on the one hand, 
the nature of things on the other, resisting as it does the 
hard-and-fast alternative by its infinity of gradations — 
these combine to restrict the principle of the Excluded 
Middle to the narrowest possible field of application. And 
yet, even apart from its primary importance in the dia- 
lectical struggle, this principle is not altogether destitute of 
objective value. 

In what — we now ask — does the true import of these 
principles consist ? They enlighten us, it has been 
answered, on the scope and significance of such words 
as "no" and "not." This is not quite exact, as we are 
here concerned not with the meaning of words, but with the 
actuality of the relations expressed by them. We might 
accordingly be at first inclined to regard the Principle of 
Contradiction as giving information on incompatibilities 
subsisting in the nature of things. This would be right if 
the principle related to contrary pairs of opposites, such as 
heat and cold, rest and motion, sound and silence, and so 
forth. But it is wrong, since, as we have repeated quite 
often enough, the principle relates merely to a positive 
assertion on the one hand and the pure negation of it on 
the other. To say that a phenomenon is incompatible 
with its own suspension has in strictness no meaning ; the 
deniiil of A means nothing more than just that A is absent, 
though it sometimes appears to bear a different or larger 
meaning in consequence of the habit which the mind has 
of passing insensibly on from the pure negation to an 
affirmative associated with it in experience. Here, it may 
be, we have reached the inmost kernel of the matter, the 
fact, of constant recurrence throughout our experience, that 
we have to reckon with the absence of phenomena as well 
as with their presence. Since all our knowledge relates to 
phenomena, or at mo^t to their essentially unknowable 


vehicles as well, it is to this that the Principle of Contradic- 
tion comes in the last resort. It means nothing else than 
that the antitheses of presence and absence, of occurrence 
and non-occurrence, of possession and lack — to use some of 
the commonest expressions — traverse our whole experience. 
The principle of the Excluded Middle, on the other hand, 
regarded as a principle of cognition, and not as a rule of 
dialectic fence, expresses our conviction that this duality 
divides the whole world of phenomena ; that only imperfect 
insight and insufficient exactness in framing the question 
prevent us from solving the alternative in each possible case. 

3. Aristotle, to whom we now return, hkewise referred 
these maxims to their source in experience. He repre- 
sents vovc, or mind, as the agent by which we obtain the 
knowledge of them ; but the instrument with which it 
works is here, as in the case of all " first " truths, induc- 
tion. That the fact is as we have stated it, and that all 
idea of d prioi'i knowledge is in this connexion entirely 
foreign to the mind of the Stagirite, has been maintained, 
with equal fervour and success, by George Grote, the 
immortal historian of Greece, whose work in this field 
also is worthy of the highest consideration. 

In answer to the objection that an induction never in 
reality includes all the instances, but only those known to 
us, and that it gives us no sufficient guarantee against the 
possibility of new instances breaking through the rule, 
Aristotle was accustomed to refer to universeiUy accepted 
beliefs and to the proofs by probability which dialectical 
discussion supplies. He might have added here that 
inductions which extend uniformly over all departments 
of experience and nowhere meet with any exception, strike 
back to fundamental ordinances of nature, and are per- 
ceived by us only in virtue of fundamental human attributes. 
Without memory, indeed, and without the faculty of dis- 
criminating primary impressions from their secondary copies, 
we should certainly be unable to distinguish between the 
presence of a phenomenon and its absence. 

The third of the principles under consideration, the 
Principle of Identity, is mentioned by Aristotle only in 


passing, if at all. It appears in his writings as the reverse 
side of the Principle of Contradiction, from which it is 
hardly to be distinguished. It is so, for example, in the 
main passage, which runs as follows : " It is false, namely 
to say that the existent is not, or that the non-existent is 
[Principle of Contradiction] ; it is true, on the contrary, 
to say that the existent is and that the non-existent is 
not." We have thus no need to dwell on what later became 
the stereotyped formulation of the principle : A = A. 
This formula has long been recognized, not merely as an 
empty tautology, but also, by the keener-sighted, as an 
absurdity. To compare a thing with itself is an impossi- 
bility ; in every case what happens is that a reflexion or 
reproduction of the thing is set by the side of the thing 
itself and note taken of the similarity, sometimes rising 
to indistinguishability, between copy and original. If, 
however, I escape this illusion, then I am comparing, not 
the thing with itself, but successive states of it with each 
other. But that these must be absolutely similar is any- 
thing but an axiomatic truth. Indeed, in this world of 
change, the contrary affirmation would seem to have a 
better claim to the title. 

The principles which we have been considering are 
not laws at all in the scientific sense, but they are so 
in the sense of practical rules and precepts. He who 
thinks or speaks may profitably bring or keep them before 
his own and others' attention. They are useful as timely 
reminders, be it only of the self-evident. Even the 
Principle of Identity, poor as it is in content, may be 
thus employed in dealing either with a pupil or with an 
adversary in debate. The latter is, so to speak, clutched 
by the coat-tails the moment he seems likely to escape 
us. He is recalled to the exact point in dispute when on 
the point of substituting for it some other which is like it 
in appearance but different in reality. Similarly, the pupil 
may be reminded of the subject under consideration when 
he is in danger of losing sight of it and replacing it by 
something else, whether ambiguity of language, looseness 
of thought, or the interposition of a long chain of argument 
be the cause of his distraction. 




I. We turn from the principles to the object of knowledge. 
And at once we are faced by what we have met with so 
often already— the deep cleavage which runs through the 
spirit and the teaching of Aristotle. Again the Asclepiad 
is in conflict with the Platonist, or, to put it differently, the 
investigator of nature with the investigator of concepts. 
The first takes the individual, the concrete, the second 
takes the universal, the abstract, as the true object of 
knowledge, as the type of full reality. In different pas- 
sages of his " Metaphysics " Aristotle has, in truth, adopted 
fundamentally different attitudes towards this question ; 
he has defined the truly existent, or ovaia, now in the 
one, now in the other sense. The contradiction is glaring, 
and, in fact, generally recognized. No attempt to mini- 
mize its significance could possibly succeed. Followed 
into its consequences, the conflict is between the recog- 
nition of the world of experience on the one hand, and the 
transcendental world on the other. The mention of this 
latter, the sum of metaphysical entities, recalls Plato's 
doctrine of Ideas ; and the question at once presents itself 
as to how Aristotle ranged himself with regard to this 
fundamental doctrine of his master. His attitude, it must 
be answered, was one of unceasing and violent opposition. 
He took every suitable and many an unsuitable occasion 
of combating it ; and thus — the statement is paradoxical, 
but incontestably true — he proved that he never wholly 
overcame it in his own mind. A man who has hewn 
through the trunk of a tree does not go on hacking at 
the branches. When once the main principle of a doctrine 


has been recognized as baseless, that doctrine is set aside 
as done with, and we pass on to something else. But 
Plato's pupil never wearies of attacking Plato's chief doc- 
trine ; he thus himself testifies to its vitality, and betrays, 
we may add, its survival within his own breast. We are 
reminded of the Hydra, with its heads growing ever anew ; 
and the impression proves to be fully justified. The more 
deeply we study the " Metaphysics," the more surely we 
recognize that the author retains the premisses out of 
which Plato's doctrine of Ideas grew, and that his struggles 
against accepting the conclusions which flow from those 
premisses are vain though violent. "As by an irresistible 
fate," justly remarks a recent writer on the subject, "he 
is driven further and further along the course which he 
would fain avoid." 

This contradiction, too, is only one special case among 
several. Through the whole field of ontology Aristotle's 
investigation moves almost without exception along the 
same lines. All the leading thoughts are borrowed by 
the pupil from the teacher. Plato supplies these thoughts : 
what Aristotle does is to elaborate them, to trace their 
ramifications, to enrich them with distinctions and refine- 
ments. Finally, he gives a summary of the whole, which 
on examination appears for the most part self-contradictory 
and full of gaping flaws. Three reasons may be assigned 
for this unsoundness of the metaphysical conclusions. The 
contradiction is sometimes contained in the Platonic doc- 
trine itself: we may instance the depotentialization of 
matter (a subject cognate to our present theme) and the 
doctrine of natural places (cf. p. 65). In other and more 
frequent cases the strongly developed sense for reality of 
the observer of nature has revolted from the idealistic 
philosophy of concepts, and purposely watered down the 
conclusions which flow from it. Side by side with this 
conflict, now so familiar to us, a third process is at work 
with still greater danger to the consistency of Aristotle's 
teaching. Its origin is to be found in a tendency of his 
mind which likewise is well known to us already, one 
which, in its normal and healthy manifestation, may be 


variously described as the historical sense, as hatred of 
extravagance and respect for common sense, but which 
not seldom degenerates into an almost superstitious over- 
appreciation of traditional opinions. This tendency, too, 
brings diluted conclusions and inconsistencies in its train. 
Thus both the initial and the final stages of these reason- 
ings seldom or never bear witness to the power and 
originality of Aristotle's thought. His strength is much 
more clearly revealed in the middle region of the investi- 
gation, where the ordering, sifting, distinguishing, classifying 
activities of the dialectician find their appropriate arena. 
He is at his strongest when he is criticizing Plato's doctrine. 
There are four main arguments which Aristotle marshals 
against Plato's doctrine of Ideas. The first of these con- 
tains a germ which a leader of the mediaeval Nominalists, 
William of Occam, developed into the formula : " Entities 
are not to be multiplied unnecessarily " (" Entia non sunt 
multiplicanda praeter necessitatem "), This objection is 
expressed by the Stagirite in a manner which borders on 
scorn: the authors of the doctrine of Ideas "desired to 
ascertain the causes of sensible objects, and therefore 
added to them an equal number of other objects. Just 
as if one who had to count a set of things were to think 
himself unequal to his task till he had doubled their 
number." The second objection is to the effect that the 
arguments adduced in support of the doctrine of Ideas 
prove too much. If they were valid, there would have 
to be ideas of negative and relative concepts. It is pre- 
cisely these "more accurate grounds of proof" that are 
said to lead to the hypothesis of the " third man " (cf. 
Vol. III. p. 151). Thirdly, the doctrine is barren. It 
contributes nothing to the understanding of the world. 
The Ideas, too, are not the causes either of any movement 
or of any change. If they are explained as patterns upon 
which things are modelled, this is " empty talk and mere 
poetic metaphor ; what, then, is the active principle which 
works with an eye on the Ideas fashioning things in their 
likeness ,? " And again, for one and the same thing not 
one pattern would be required, but several ; e.g. for the 


individual man we should need the Ideas of "living being," 
of "biped," and of "man." Fourthly and lastly, it must 
be held impossible that the essence of a thing and the 
thing of which it is the essence should subsist in separa- 
tion from each other. This objection to " separation " 
or transcendence is at the same time the bridge which 
leads to Aristotle's transformation of his master's doctrine, 
his theory of the immanence of the Ideas. 

2. It is just at this point that we are presented with 
a most astonishing spectacle. The pupil who here attacks 
his master with the utmost keenness and emphasis remains 
none the less a pupil ; his efforts to free himself from the 
old teaching are ardent but unavailing. The fundamental 
thesis — we may as well say at once the fundamental error 
— from which Aristotle cannot break loose, may be formu- 
lated as follows. The things of sense are a countless 
multitude, perishable, vowed to everlasting flux ; therefore 
they cannot be the object of genuine solid knowledge. 
Such knowledge would thus have to be renounced were 
there not, in addition to ' individual things, something 
abiding and imperishable : the hyperphysical object of 
real knowledge. To this two replies might have been 
made. A sound theory of matter, like that of the Atomists, 
be it or be it not the last word of Science, has in any case 
proved the most powerful lever of scientific progress. The 
Democritean doctrine of atoms and not the Heraclitean 
doctrine of flux was the right starting-point to choose ; 
in this direction salvation was to be hoped for. But, 
secondly, even on the soil of Heraclitean theory, good 
fruit might have grown if only the universal reign of law 
which the Ephesian proclaimed with the greatest imaginable 
emphasis had not been grudged the central position which 
was its due. Let the things of sense be in themselves 
never so incapable of appearing as the object of scientific 
knowledge, the regularities of nature are none the less of 
exceeding strictness ; the laws of nature might have been 
for Plato and Aristotle what they are for us, a type of 
scientific precision and scientific certainty. We note with 
ever renewed surprise that this point of view remained 


foreign as well to the founder of the Academy as to the 
most illustrious of his disciples. But our astonishment 
diminishes when we recognize in the failure a defect rooted 
in the evolution of ancient science. One feature of this 
evolution was that the sciences which deal with the co- 
existences of things arrived at a high degree of perfection 
much earlier than those which, primarily by physical 
experiment, determine the successions of things. Hence 
the words which correspond to our " law of nature " are 
used in this sense by the Greeks and Romans only in 
isolated cases, and are far more frequently employed to 
denote a typical stock of qualities. Conceptual types and 
cogent reasonings were largely taken to be the characteristic 
elements in scientific knowledge, not empirical determi- 
nations of the succession of phenomena. Socratism, in 
particular, united with mathematics to create an ideal of 
science which at that time and place may well have 
seemed incapable of full realization outside the purely 
descriptive field. In the result thought fled for refuge to 
the region of the supersensual and often supramundane 
forms, types, or Ideas ; and Aristotle is as often to be 
found resisting this flight as taking part in it. His 
utterances on these matters contradict one another most 
glaringly ; but, in spite of this, they deserve the most 
careful examination. 

A part, indeed, of these utterances is worthy of our 
full attention for its own sake. For sterling matter and 
luminous expression, this part ranks with the best that 
Aristotle has left us. So clear and so sound are these 
thoughts of his on the origin and function of general con- 
cepts, that it appears at first incomprehensible how, after 
once gaining the shore, he could have slipped back into 
the vortex of doubt, and allowed himself to be engulfed 
in the depths of Platonic mysticism. 

There is a highly noteworthy passage in the " Meta- 
physics," the character of which is stamped upon it by the 
incessant repetition of a little Greek word, variously 
translated by " as," " qua'' " in so far as." It runs thus : 
" Concerning things which move much may be affirmed 


and known which applies to them not as moving but 
merely as bodies, much else in which they are involved 
only so far as they are surface or line. Other propositions 
deal with things qua divisible or qita indivisible, and 
located in space (point) or merely (7?/;^; indivisible (unit). . . . 
If the objects of mathematics have the attribute of being 
perceptible to the senses, while yet that science does not 
treat of them in so far as they are so perceptible, the 
branches of mathematics do not thereby become sciences 
of sensible objects ; but just as little can they be said to 
have for their object separate entities subsisting in addition 
to the things of sense." Here the transcendentality of 
metaphysical entities is denied ; a few sentences earlier 
their immanence is included in the same condemnation. 
" Although there are many propositions about moving 
things as moving (independently of their other attributes 
and their general nature), it is not necessary on that 
account that there should exist a moving somewhat, separate 
from the things of sense, or that a determinate entity of 
that kind should be found in them." 

Here, then, we have a repudiation both of transcendent 
entities, subsisting in addition to things, and of immanent 
entities residing in them — that is, of all metaphysical 
entities whatever. It would be impossible to make this 
rejection of ontology more decisive or more complete. 
This is done, it is true, only within a limited field, that 
of mathematics. The hostility to ontology breaks out in 
the course of the fight against Plato's assumption of 
particular mathematical entities. It is to the heat of this 
conflict that the philosopher owes the surprising clearness 
of vision, the extraordinary maturity of thought which he 
displays on this occasion. There is hardly another passage 
where Aristotle expresses himself with equal lucidity on 
the ruleoi abstraction in science, on the origin and function 
of universal concepts. Things themselves (thus we may 
generalize his exposition) present many sides to our 
contemplation. For the purposes of investigation it is 
expedient to close our eyes now to this aspect, now to 
that ; wc do well always to concentrate our attention upon 


some one aspect, and for the moment to give heed to it 
alone. It is acknowledged that this mental isolation of 
one side of things is apt to engender the illusion of its 
separate existence ; but, with the fairness born of superiority 
(a fairness, however, not too common in Aristotle), he 
admits that the artifice which leads to this illusion is harm- 
less, and indeed helpful to research. " Every object " — 
such are his words — ■" is best viewed when that which 
is not separate (that which has no independent existence) 
is posited in separation (as an independent object), just 
as is done by the arithmetician and the geometer." 

In this connexion the outlines of what we to-day call, 
with Comte, the "hierarchy of the sciences" (cf. Vol. III. 
p. 83) is sketched with wonderful clearness and concise- 
ness. The most abstract sciences are at once the most 
difficult and the most exact, both from the same reason ; 
they lie at the greatest distance behind sense-perception. 
The greater the number of added determinations, that is, 
the concreter the object, the more knowledge suffers in 
clearness and exactness ; such, for example, is the relation 
of applied to pure mathematics. To all this we moderns 
may also subscribe, more or less in the words of d'Alem- 
bert : " It is chiefly to the simplicity of their object that 
they (the mathematical sciences) owe their certainty." At 
the most we should draw a sharper line between, on the 
one hand, the sciences of coexistence, and, on the other, 
those sciences of the succession of phenomena in which the 
decrease of exactitude runs parallel with the multiplica- 
tion of co-operating and interacting forces, as well as with 
the superposition of new factors upon old. We should 
also justify the unconditional rigour of the mathematical 
sciences upon somewhat different grounds, by pointing out 
that they arc not concerned with realities at all, but with 
" assumptions " or " conventions " — the first of these ex- 
pressions is due to J. S. Mill, the second to Poincare— 
which remain clear-cut and precise till they are plunged 
by their applications into the turbid waters of reality. 

3. Sharply contrasting with the calm and security which 
distinguishes these wonderful expositions, other passages 


occur which reveal the innermost wrestHngs of Aristotle's 
mind, and betoken the never-ending struggles of onto- 
logy and the ontologists. Who can fail to detect a note 
of helplessness bordering on desperation in such passages 
as that which follows ? " One question there is which has 
ever been, now is, and always will remain an object of 
unceasing search and constant doubt" The question 
meant is that as to the nature of Being or substance, 
which " some hold to be one, some many ; some limited, 
others unlimited." It is exceeding strange that the main 
source of these perplexities, the ambiguity of language, 
is touched upon in this connexion, but not made in 
anything like adequate degree to contribute towards the 
solution of the riddle. " Being," says Aristotle, is a term 
with several senses ; the words " substance " or " essence " 
have at least four. 

The Stagirite's way out of the difficulty may be fairly 
stated somewhat as follows. The essence or the essential 
is the concept ; " science is concerned with essentials ; 
science must be concerned with reality ; consequently . . . 
the concept is something real." Here Aristotle seems to 
have once more arrived at that Platonic doctrine of Ideas 
which he has so vigorously combated. But this he cannot 
for a moment admit. He saves himself from the threatened 
relapse by substituting immanence for transcendence, by 
allowing the " concept or form " to subsist in things instead 
of by their side. But although the formula so obtained, 
the "one in many," seems to be absolutely correct, in 
correspondence with the facts, free from all the wild 
imaginings of ontology, Aristotle can yet find no lasting 
peace in it. Passages are not wanting in which "the 
notion or form " appears yet again as something inde- 
pendent, separable from things. So glaring are these 
contradictions that in the most recent times it has been 
possible to publish the conjecture — without doubt an 
erroneous one — that the confusion is chargeable not on 
the author, but on the arranger or editor of the meta- 
physical books. We shall come nearest the truth if we 
term Aristotle's doctrine a diluted Realism or Platonism. 


" The concept or form " — in this identification we have 
the most characteristic feature of Aristotle's ontology. 
For him the concept is the principle which gives form 
to things, and thus the agent which provides each one 
of them with its unity and determinate individuality. 
Sometimes we have to do with a principle of structure 
and organization, at other times we should speak rather 
of the highest function, the work or purpose of the object 
considered. As a type of form we have the hollow sphere 
into which wax is melted. A house is a union of matter 
and form, as contrasted with the stones and bricks of 
which it is composed ; so too is a statue relatively to the 
bronze or stone of which it is made ; the seeing eye and 
the animate body are yet other examples in regard to 
which vision and the soul, or life-principle, play the part 
of form. To this active and formative principle matter 
is opposed and subordinated as its passive and formless 
object. Matter, in our sense of the word, is regarded as 
altogether inert and characterless. For Aristotle here 
follows the precedent of Plato, as set in the " Philebus " 
rather than in the "Timseus;" and behind the elements, 
in which a union of opposed characters is already con- 
tained, he posits an absolutely featureless and purely passive 
primary matter, void of form till form is impressed upon 
it. This ultimate substratum, it should be observed, is 
conceived by him as prior to all else, not so much in time 
as in thought. And it is only in this sense, as we may 
here remark by way of anticipation, that the Aristotelian 
philosophy can be called a philosophy of development ; 
the Stagirite had no conception of a true evolution, in 
Spencer's or Darwin's sense, as a process accomplished 
in the course of time. 

4. It is highly noteworthy that what for Aristotle is 
matter in one regard is form for him in another. The 
material elements, indeed, are among the things so treated 
by him. As contrasted with all other bodies they are 
matter ; they are form relatively to that truly primary 
matter just mentioned. Here is a surprising breadth of vi- 
sion, worthy of Heraclitus ; homage is paid to the principle 


of the unity of oi^posites. But there is shade beside 
this light, namely, the vagueness of an analogism which 
refines away fundamental distinctions and issues in abstrac- 
tions which, where not contradictory, are poor in content. 
We are reminded of those essays towards a philosophy of 
identity which we met with in Xenocrates (cf. pp. 7-11). 
Thus the antithesis of form and matter is discovered in 
the world of thought, in the material universe, in the realm 
of life. It is claimed that the subordinate species is related 
to the comprehending genus, the elements which rule in 
the upper regions to those which are found below, the soul 
to the body, the male to the female — each as form to its 
correspondent matter. Still more luxuriant growths occur 
in a closely-related region. 

With form and matter is associated another pair of 
ideas, the antithesis of the real and the possible, the actual 
and the potential. While the first pair of opposites applies 
to the division of a thing into two parts or aspects, the 
second is concerned with events and processes, and with 
the states and qualities which they produce. 

That this pair of ideas comprehends very much that is 
bound together by the threads of analogy rather than 
embraced under a strict definition is what Aristotle himself 
informs us when he appends a warning against seeking 
logical rigour everywhere. Such a warning is in truth 
necessary if one category is to cover such disparate instances 
as the following propositions supply. Hermes is poten- 
tially in the wood, that is, the likeness of the god is present 
as a possibility in the material from which his image is 
to be carved ; similarly, the half of the line is contained 
potentially in the whole from which it may be cut off"; 
the same antithesis is further illustrated by the relation of 
the builder resting to the same builder at work on a house, 
of the man with closed but not blind eyes to the same 
man looking at something ; with others of the same kind. 
A rising scale is thus constituted, the apex of which consists 
in the full realization of the powers and faculties latent 
in a being, and is called its "entelechy." Even within 
the entelechy itself, that which is state or condition is 


distinguished from what is actual operation, and called 
the first entelechy (that is, the lowest of the upper stages). 
Such, for example, is intelligence as a quality distinguished 
from the actual process of understanding things. With 
the fuller realization of capacity there goes hand in hand a 
sharper impress of the form, so that the highest actuality 
becomes at the same time the complete triumph of form 
over characterless matter. Accordingly, form is identified 
with the realization of concepts, matter with their merely 
potential existence ; and the two pairs of opposites coincide 
in this application of them. The soul, in fact, is some- 
times called the entelechy and sometimes the form of the 

Even this short survey is enough to show that the true 
home of these categories is the realm of nature, and more 
particularly that of organic life, which both in the grada- 
tion of species and in the development of individuals 
exhibits a progressive realization of rudimentary germs 
and merely indicated possibilities. The vague analogism, 
on the other hand, which employs the instances first men- 
tioned by us, replaces the ideas of capacity and germ by 
that of mere possibility. In this manner a distinction by 
no means barren in itself is expanded to a breadth hurtful 
to its fertility, the more so as that antithesis of actual and 
potential energy which is so important in modern physics 
could by no possibility have played any part in Aristotle's 
system. From the barren to the wrongful employment of 
such categories is but a step. Just this step has been 
made more than once by the dialectician when under the 
intoxication produced by the widest abstractions ; and he 
has thus exposed himself to the censure of even the most 
benevolent of his interpreters, Hermann Bonitz. It is an 
apt description which this sound commentator gives of the 
distinction between form and matter, the actual and the 
potential, as "a medicine ever at hand to cure all wounds 
of the system," 

All these distinctions have rendered plentiful service 
not only as cloaks to cover the inner rifts of the system, 
but also as ministering to that love of compromise which 


we have already noted in Aristotle. The Stagirite is often 
unwilling either to reject common opinion or to condemn 
an antagonistic view championed by eminent predecessors. 
At such times his efforts to uphold conflicting judgments 
simultaneously find useful allies in the division of a thing 
into form and matter, the division of a process or a state 
produced by it into the actual and the potential. One 
subject is in this manner regularly made into two ; with 
the one part may be joined the predicate A, and to the 
other the predicate not-A, without any manifest infringe- 
ment of the principle of contradiction. 

This easy and airy manipulation of the notion of the 
potential as something parallel to and of equal rank with 
the actual prompted Aristotle's Megarian opponents — men 
of rigidly logical thought eagerly spying out the joints in 
his harness — to engage in that polemic on which we have 
already touched (cf. Vol. II. p. 203). Whenever I treat — 
so they evidently contended — of that which a human or 
other being has the power to make or do, I must not forget 
the fact that such production or achievement, like any other 
future event, may indeed depend on some one factor in 
preponderant degree, but hardly ever exclusively. The 
predominance of the one factor very easily comes to be 
regarded by us as its unshared sovereignty. Against this 
illusion we ought to be on our guard j we should remember 
that the artist, for example, is not wholly independent of 
his material, or of those who give him commissions, and so 
on ; that, in short, every real event needs the co-operation 
of numberless conditions from among which we are only 
too ready to single out the most important or the most 
decisive and treat it as if it stood alone. This seems to 
be the central aim and true meaning of that attack which 
the author of the " Metaphysics " describes and parries as if 
it were a denial of potentiality, falling, as he does so, into 
the most serious contradictions. 

5. We have passed in review the chief ontological 
doctrines of Aristotle. Let us now consider them criti- 
cally. First of all, the conviction forces itself upon us 
that in our exposition one point has so far enjoyed a 


preponderance to which it is not fairly entitled. That 
Aristotle does not fully free himself from the Platonic 
tendency to objectify abstractions, that he wrestles with 
this temptation, seems at one time to have conquered it, 
and then again succumbs, — all this is true, but it is not 
the crucial consideration in the appraisement of Aristotle's 
metaphysics. Not to be able to occupy one's self continuously 
with abstractions without at least occasionally falling into 
the illusion that lends them an independent being, without 
at least lapsing into what is technically called the hypostasy 
of abstractions, this is a defect and a weakness of the 
human mind which cannot be taken as characteristic of 
one particular application of its powers. It is a pitfall of 
language into which the physicists with their " forces " and 
the physchologistS with their " faculties " have more than 
once fallen. 

Much more important is the question as to whicJi 
abstractions we employ in explanation of the world-process 
In this connexion it is characteristic of Aristotle in the 
highest degree that he regards the concept as the form- 
giving, or, in the widest sense, the constitutive principle 
of things. The pupil of Plato thus continues to walk in 
the path which his master had followed, which Socrates 
had opened, and which has proved as useful in supplying 
a preliminary training for philosophy as incapable of 
making the world intelligible. " Form and active force " — 
this combination of words occurring in the " Metaphysics," 
throws a flood of light on the spirit of the Aristotelian 
ontology. Where we speak of natural forces and the laws 
governing their operations, there Aristotle treats of con- 
cepts. This is the point at which his path diverges from 
that of the founders of a genuine natural philosophy 
capable of development. From his investigation of con- 
cepts there is no thoroughfare to the root-principles of the 
investigation of nature. Not from such a starting-point 
could any one ever have travelled to the foundation-laying 
experiments by which Archimedes created the science 
of statics or Galilei that of dynamics. In one passage of 
the "Metaphysics" we read the highly significant words: 


" The Why is in the end reduced to the concept of the 
thing." This is a typical expression of that illusion 
by which we imagine ourselves able to deduce the real 
connexions of things from the relations of the concepts 
applicable to them. What we should say is really the 
reverse : after observation or experiment has enlightened us 
on the nexus of phenomena, we then accommodate our ideas 
to the knowledge so won ; empirical knowledge is the first 
stage, the corresponding formation of concepts the second. 
This reversal of the true relation leaves its impress on 
the numerous illusory explanations, and no less on the 
illusory problems of which these books are full. Having once 
raised the question : " Why is fire hot ? " Aristotle would 
certainly not have considered it sufficiently answered if 
he had been initiated into the chemical process of com- 
bustion. He would continually have passed on to another 
Why ; he would have demanded an explanation of the con- 
nexion, in its very nature inexplicable, between particular 
movements of molecules and the particular sensation of 
heat ; and he would have found peace at last in a supposed 
notional explanation, that is, in a tautology which extracts 
from the meaning of a word what experience has first 
placed there, and then puts it forward as the true ground 
of the empirical fact. But there is something worse than 
tautology. What is a concept ? P'ar too often it is merely 
a piece of old knowledge, stiffened and compacted into 
a shield on which new knowledge beats in vain. How 
arbitrary and misleading this conceptual analysis can 
be in the explanations of nature, appears from a section 
which we have already considered in advance, that in 
which Aristotle lays the foundation for his doctrine of the 
elements and in so doing brings out two flatly contradictory 
results. Another typical example will be supplied us by 
the theory of the " First Mover," which really comes to 
nothing more than a postulate of concept-building, and 
might be condensed to the following formula : Out of 
three conceivable combinations two are realized in nature ; 
why should the same not also hold of the third, and 
on the most comprehensive scale? 


In other cases an old doctrine is retained, but attenuated 
to a mere shadow by being emptied of its content. That 
contraries condition each other was a profound discovery 
of the ancients, particularly Heraclitus. It was the same 
with the discovery that contraries often pass over into each 
other. In the two theorems taken together there lay a 
recognition of the vastly important part played in nature 
and mental life by the coexistence and the succession of 
contraries. Physical polarity, that play of antagonistic 
forces, which so promotes the health of individuals and 
societies, the protection thus afforded against what Plato 
calls in the " Ph^do " the " lameness " of a one-sided 
process (Vol. III. p. 42); add further the danger of re- 
action and reversal inherent in all extremes — all this was 
contained in the contributions of Plato and Heraclitus to 
this theme, while the older and cruder appreciations of 
elementary oppositions (such as water feeds on lire, fire 
on water, and so on) had formed a kind of prelude. Now, 
the heir of all this wisdom might surely have been expected 
at once to acknowledge the value of these generalizations, 
and to reduce them to their proper measure. But what 
Aristotle really does is something very different. He does 
not reject those theories, in which he is right ; and he does 
not limit them, in which he is wrong. He can no more 
pierce to the root of these extravagant generalizations than 
in the case of the Platonic theory of ideas or the mystic 
doctrine of numbers. He clearly rejected all such pro- 
cedure as too radical ; and he adopted another method, 
better adapted to reconcile his excessive respect for tradi- 
tion with the demands of his critical intelligence. He 
desires to put the doctrine of elementary opposites on 
a rational basis. But while he is at work on this task 
contradictory opposition usurps unperceived the place of 
contrary opposition ; what the doctrine thus gains in 
certainty is lost in significance, till in the end it becomes 
nothing more than a bald assertion of the self-evident. 
" White," so we read in the chief passage of the " Physics," 
" arises out of the not-white, but not out of all such [the 
exclusion, as the preceding matter teaches us, applies to 


such entirely disparate fields of thought as the musical], 
but from black or from one of the intermediates" by which 
is understood the totality of other colours ! Thus of the 
pretentious and often overworked doctrine of the older 
thinkers nothing is left beyond the absolutely tautological 
assertion that the acquisition of a quality involves its 
previous absence. This may sound like exaggeration, 
but it is the literal truth ; and the most wonderful thing 
about it is that Aristotle never ceased to regard this 
watered-down or rather washed-out doctrine of opposed 
principles as a fundamental law of nature. It hardly 
seems worth while to point out that the truism here pro- 
mulgated as an august principle of nature has not even 
received a rigidly accurate formulation. For not every 
" arrangement or composition," as there stated, proceeds 
from non-arrangement and non-composition. Arrange- 
ment may be merely rearrangement ; composition may 
be transposition. Take, for example, cases of chemical 
affinity, in which the combinations AB and CD are trans- 
formed into the new combinations AC and BD ; take the 
changing configurations of the kaleidoscope or the chess- 
board, or again the chorus in a Greek play, divided fivefold 
for its entry, threefold for the performance. 

6. The theory of Becoming here touched upon appears 
to other expositors in a much more important light than 
it does to us. In combination with the distinction between 
the actual and the potential it is supposed to have solved 
a problem on which Plato had made shipwreck. The 
truth is that the Stagirite had intended to reconcile the 
dictum of the nature-philosopher : " Nothing proceeds from 
nothing," with the popular view that things begin to be, 
by allowing the thing itself to abide while such of its 
properties as are considered accidental pass into and out 
of existence. It comes to this, that in the realm of matter 
the first principle of constancy (cf. p. G'j) is admitted, and 
the second at the same time denied — a denial by which 
Aristotle renounces, if not an established truth, at all 
events a heuristic maxim of uncommon fertility (cf Vol. I. 
pp. 173 scq(2. and 324-5). Outside or above the realm of 


matter his doctrine is not open to the same objection. His 
reconciliation of the conflicting theses : "Nothing comes from 
nothing," and "Something comes from nothing," may be 
regarded as a statement, perhaps too pretentious in tone, 
of the self-evident proposition that an object abides and 
its states change. For example, the day breaks ; herewith 
an in itself unaltered portion of the globe, which before 
was dark, is now illuminated. But consider the typical 
Aristotelian instance : if a man receives a musical educa- 
tion, the substratum, the man, abides ; he does not become 
man from not-man ; but in so far as a musically-uneducated 
has become a musically-educated person, in a certain sense 
something has come from nothing, and at the same time 
what was present only in germ has become actual. The 
poverty in content of these assertions appears still more 
glaring in the light of an obvious reflexion. If we sum 
up a situation by saying " first there is nothing, then there 
is something," our words can as a rule (since explosive 
changes are rare exceptions) be true only of the minimal 
increments by whose gradual summation the great majority 
of all changes take place. The paradoxical ring of the 
statement, " From the uneducated comes the educated," 
is in any case lost when we remember the stages of transi- 
tion and the continuous progress from quarter-educated 
to half-educated, and so on. And in the last resort can 
even that accumulation of increments be justly compared 
with the production of something out of nothing ? To 
vary Aristotle's example a little, let us imagine some one 
learning to dance. By a convenient transcription of the 
facts it may be said that a dancer has come from a non- 
dancer. But the transcription is by no means so appropriate 
as it is convenient. Rightly regarded, the facts are some- 
thing like this : the person's sense of rhythm has been 
strengthened by exercise, so have some of his muscles ; 
habit has made it easier to perform certain movements 
simultaneously and to refrain from certain other move- 
ments which are undesirable ; and so we might go on. 
It is only an arbitrary convention that accords the name 
of dancer to one who has reached a particular stage 


in this progress and denies it to another who is perhaps 
a poor fraction of a step behind. Is it not at bottom a 
misuse of language to call one point of this path a some- 
thing and to identify an immediately preceding, hardly 
distinguishable, point with nothing ? 

We gladly turn from this explanation of becoming and 
happening, which in our opinion explains little and solves 
no serious difficulty, to Aristotle's treatment of the chief 
law of all happening, the law of causation. The first 
question which here presents itself is whether the Stagiritc 
did or did not admit exceptions to this supreme rule. We 
believe it possible to answer this question in the negative, 
and to prove the contrary assertions of eminent predecessors 
to be in error. It is a pleasure here to see the mind of our 
philosopher moving, up to a certain point dictated by his 
peculiar characteristics, along the path opened up by his 
great forerunners, above all by the Atomists. 




I. A TREATMENT of the Greek thinkers' conception of 
chance is made not inappreciably more difficult by the fact 
that the Greek terms denoting this idea and its modifica- 
tions do not altogether cover the same ground as those 
used in modern languages. One of the expressions con- 
cerned must, as a preliminary, be separated from the others, 
as not being, like them, in any way bound up with the 
question of cause. We refer to the word which denotes the 
"accidental," as opposed not to that which is causally 
determined, but to that which is essential. But in order to 
eliminate the notion in question we have first to assign it 
its place in the general family of such notions ; and for 
that purpose we must also pass these others in review. 
The necessity here arises of distinguishing the Aristotelian 
terminology from common Greek usage in respect of some 
of these words. " A drop of luck is worth a cask of sense." 
In this line, ascribed to Menander, the idea of luck is ex- 
pressed by Tv\r] ; in another line from the same source 
man is warned not to forget " the common tv\^]" that is 
his dependence on the whims of fate. Thus tv^i] became 
an embodiment of the haphazard, whether helpful or 
hurtful ; it was also worshipped as a goddess, and the 
rolling sphere, the symbol of inconstancy, was her attri- 
bute. For Aristotle, the word rv\^ signifies as a rule the 
concurrence of two events bound by no causal connexion, 
but yet presenting the appearance of such a bond. I have 
dreamt something, and the dream comes true ; I dig up 
my field and light on a treasure. These are a few types 
of what is here meant, of chance in the widest sense of the 


word (A). A subordinate variety of this genus is provided 
by those cases in which the appearance of a causal nexus is 
limited to cases of apparent purpose. An action performed 
with quite different intentions is followed by a result of so 
striking a nature that the impression is produced of a 
designed result {a). A sub-variety of this sub-variety 
comprehends those instances in which purpose was not 
merely absent but was bound to be absent by the very 
nature of the agents, which, being lifeless and soulless, or 
in any case void of reason, are removed from the possibility 
of purposeful action. To designate this group Aristotle 
uses a word which elsewhere and incidentally has another 
and a wider meaning, for it then denotes that which arises 
"of itself" or spontaneously, as distinguished not merely 
from what is purposed but from what is in any way causally 
conditioned : this word survives in our " automaton " ib). 

2. Besides rux*] and its varieties we have an idea not 
always strictly separated from it and sometimes subsumed 
under it, that expressed by o-k^jSejSjjkoc, literally that 
which accompanies. The word " accident " might be used 
for both, but for the sake of stricter separation we prefer 
to represent Tvxr\ by " chance " or " haphazard," o-u^j3£j3»)Koc 
by " accident." The common element is the lack of inner 
connexion between two things (events or qualities) ; but 
this lack is generally expressed by the first word when 
events or processes are in question, and by the second in 
respect of qualities or states. 
K\:l V For Aristotle every quality is an accident which is not), 

deducible from the concept of the object, even though it 
may be as inseparably bound up with that concept as (to 
cite his favourite example) the possession of angles amount- 
ing to two right angles is bound up with the notion of a 
triangle. From this kind of necessary or demonstrable 
" accident in itself " or attribute, the other kinds of accident 
are distinguished ; and according as they lie nearer to or 
remoter from the conceptual or essential heart of the thing 
they are distributed along the degrees of a scale. Thus 
the white grease-paint, which a man may apply to himself 
for an occasion is a more remote accident for him than the 


white colour of his skin that he has had from birth. A 
remarkable and quite sound application of this category is 
its relative use. If, for example, a physician is for once a 
patient as well, then it is said the possession of medical skill 
is an accident for this patient ; while for the physician as 
such the being a patient is also an accident. But we are 
somewhat taken aback when in the application of the whole 
theory to the sculptor Polycletus we are informed that for 
the sculptor not merely musical education, but also the 
white colour of his skin, and even the circumstance that he 
is a man or a living being at all, is an accident. We are 
reminded of the tendency, noticeable elsewhere as well, 
towards the sharp separation of what is in thought separ- 
able but in fact bound up together, a tendency already 
exemplified by the logical distinctions of form and matter, 
of the actual and the potential. We note the great 
pleasure that Aristotle takes in conceptual distinctions, 
so that he even dwells on the monstrous idea of a sculptor 
who is neither God nor man nor any other kind of living 
being, and we ask whether this temper can be of service for 
the sound understanding of things. Must not the im- 
moderate fondness for distinctions divert the mind from 
the perception of actually existing connexions which are 
often important for the understanding of causal relations .<* 
Are not isolating boundary-stakes often thereby planted 
where the important and desirable thing is really an 
unimpeded view of the whole field .' And is not this one- 
sidedly logical or formalistic mode of viewing things partly 
to blame for the Stagirite's scant success in explaining 
phenomena by their causes, for his remaining in all depart- 
ments of knowledge so much more of an anatomist than a 
physiologist ? 

3. There are two favourite examples by which Aristotle 
illustrates chance and its subdivisions. One is that of 
the creditor who is pressing for payment of a debt, but 
obtains it unexpectedly and by chance, when, having gone 
to the market on quite other business, he there lights 
on the debtor with the requisite sum in his possession (a). 
The second illustration is afforded by a horse which has 
VOL. iV, U 


lost its rider in the battle, and in the evening of the same 
day (driven, we are to suppose, by hunger, thirst, or 
instinct) returns to the camp, and is thus restored to its 
owner {b). The most important point is that in the section 
of the " Physics " devoted to this topic the existence of 
chance in the absolute sense is emphatically denied, and 
a merely relative validity accorded to the notion. In thus 
refusing to see in chance and haphazard a limit to the 
universal sway of cause he walks in the footsteps of his 
great predecessors. He approaches here the position of 
such a thinker as Leucippus, the founder of Atomism, from 
whom we have received the precious saying (Vol. I. p. 317): 
" Nothing happens without a cause, but everything with a 
cause and by necessity." For Aristotle the automatic or 
self-moving is just as little an independent factor intro- 
ducing a disturbing element into the realm of knowledge 
and purposeful action based on knowledge as it is for the 
author of the work "On the Art" (cf. Vol. I. pp. 423 and 
467), that sophist powerful in thought and speech who 
penned these memorable words : " The spontaneous or 
automatic, when grappled at close quarters, turns out to 
be non-existent. For in the case of everything that 
happens it is possible to discover that it happens through 
something ; but in this * through something ' the automatic 
loses its existence and becomes a mere name. Now, the 
art of healing (any other art or reasoned practice might 
have been named here) has and ever will have its being 
in the region of that which happens through something 
and can be foreseen." 

4. Occasionally, it is true, a suspicion arises that 
on this matter, too, the consistency of the Stagirite is 
not irreproachable. His excessive respect for traditional 
opinions, and the special circumstance that Plato in the 
" Timaeus " had postulated an " erratic " cause in addition 
to those that work according to law, might incline us to 
see in some of his utterances an occasional lapse from the 
position which he proclaimed as a general principle with so 
much vigour and clearness. It cannot be denied that here 
and there a passage occurs which could be so interpreted ; 


but in no single instance does such interpretation seem 
to us unavoidable ; and this once, to our thinking, it will 
be better not to call Aristotle's consistency of thought 
into question. Let one example suffice for many. The 
occasional occurrence of wintry cold in the dog-days is 
described as an accidental phenomenon, and therefore 
inaccessible to scientific explanation. It looks here, at 
first sight, as if a particular sphere of action had been 
assigned to freakish chance. But this impression may 
be corrected simply by a consideration of the word 
(CTU/u/3f/3»/K:oc) used for "accidental." What Aristotle meant 
to say may very well have been merely this : If cold sets 
in during the dog-days, in spite of the sun's altitude and 
the now long-continued warming of the earth's surface, 
the fault is with the north wind, in the prevalence of which 
no regularity is discernible. Certainly, supposing he had 
desired to forestall the misunderstandings of a distant 
future, he might have added the reservation, " perhaps 
such regularity may some day be discovered." But it was 
far more natural for him to omit qualifications of that kind, 
and, though fully convinced of the universal reign of cause, 
to regard a possible law of the north wind and the law 
connecting the earth's temperature with the seasons as two 
parallel chains of cause and effect touching each other only 
in quite isolated instances. The abnormal temperature — 
he may have thought — is just as accidental for the dog- 
days as, for example, some bodily abnormality, such as a 
birthmark, would be for the sculptor or the general. 

We therefore see no inconsistency even in the raising 
of the question whether the universe does or does not owe 
its origin to chance. On a superficial consideration of the 
matter, it may seem as if merely to ask the question was 
to recognize chance as an independent and active factor. 
But, apart from the fact that Aristotle himself answers the 
question in the negative, and therefore did not necessarily 
approve of the implication it may have contained, the 
question itself expresses no more than a doubt as to 
whether, on the one hand, divine purposes or natural 
tendencies directed towards ends are the foundations 


which support the structure of the universe, or whether, 
on the other hand, blindly operating forces are here 
supreme. Is the appearance of purpose in the Cosmos 
founded on fact, or is it not ? Such a question might well 
be asked even by one in whose thought there has never 
been room for an event without a cause. 

We will dwell yet a moment on this point, because 
men of mark, held by us in the greatest esteem, have 
entered the lists for the view we reject, moved by the 
consideration rather of isolated passages than of Aristotle's 
teaching as a whole, and misled by a certainly odd laxity 
of linguistic usage. The author of the " Metaphysics " 
severely censures the nature-philosophers before Anaxa- 
goras, because, in explaining the world, they employed 
only material factors, and sought for no ground of the 
well-ordering of the Cosmos, His words are : " They have 
also not done well in leaving so great a matter to auto- 
matism and fate (rwx^)-" From this passage J. S. Mill 
inferred, to all appearance very rightly, that Aristotle 
rejects chance and spontaneity " as not sufficiently worthy 
causes for the order in the universe ; but he does not 
reject them as incapable of producing any effect, but only 
as incapable of producing tJiat effect." But this inference 
falls to the ground as soon as we recall its almost verbal 
echo in a passage of the Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle 
is there combating the view of life according to which 
happiness consists in the possession of external goods 
rather than in a particular state of the soul ; and in so 
doing he makes use of the following words : " To assign 
what is greatest and best to chance would be the height 
of absurdity." Can any one believe that when Aristotle 
wrote these words he supposed the acquisition of money, 
power, honour, and other external goods to be exempted 
from the law of cause and effect t Chance is in these 
passages the antithesis, firstly of action guided by purpose, 
secondly of the independence enjoyed by those whose 
happiness rests on the qualities of their own souls. It 
denotes in the one instance the play of natural forces 
operating, not without rule, but blindly, not directed 


towards any goal ; in the second, it applies to the influence 
of factors which are just as far from being without rule, 
but which act without choice ; for even the unworthy (this 
is the Stagirite's thought) may and not unfrequently do 
win power, honour, riches, and the other gifts of fortune. 

We return to the problem which may with approximate 
correctness be termed the problem of the cosmogony. 
Although in this connexion Aristotle escapes, as we have 
seen, the reproach of inconsistency, yet the manner in which 
he treats the problem provides us with a typical sample 
of what we may venture to call his wholly unproductive 
metaphysical method. Having arrived at the point where 
the crowning proof is to be given of the dogma that the 
universe has its origin in purpose, he proceeds as follows. 
The decision is to be extracted from the concepts involved 
in the question. Since chance and automatism include the 
^legation of end, of purpose, and so of mind, it follows that 
these last-mentioned concepts are the more primitive and 
the first-named derived from them. On the one side are 
ranged chance, haphazard, automatism ; on the other, pur- 
pose, with the intelligence revealed in it, as also natural 
tendencies directed towards ends. The second set of ideas 
has entered into the formation of the members of the first 
group and helped to determine them. From this relation- 
ship of the concepts an inference is drawn as to the relation- 
ship of the things themselves. The more primitive factor 
must have begun to act at an earlier time than the derived 
factor. " Thus, however true it might turn out to be that 
automatism is the cause of the heavens, mind and nature 
must have begun to operate earlier still." Who does not 
see here the fundamental vice of the metaphysical method, 
the inference from the order of human ideas to the order 
of natural facts, disdaining every veil and flaunting itself in 
unabashed nakedness .'' 

5. We have now considered the charge brought against 
the Stagirite that by his use of the notion of chance he 
has cast suspicion upon his faith in causality, and we have 
found it untenable. How is it, we have now to ask, v/ith the 
second count of this accusation, founded on his di.'^tinction 


between laws of causation that admit no exception, and 
those that hold only in the majority of cases, between the 
necessity and the probability of events ? We must here 
consider somewhat closely both the period of scientific 
development into which Aristotle's life was cast and his 
own individual peculiarities. Here, as elsewhere, he takes 
his stand on the ground of known facts, of what has been 
perceived in the course of experience ; he is an observer, 
not an experimental researcher. He could not, therefore, 
have been familiar with a view of causation which is hardly 
capable of thriving elsewhere than where the experimental 
dissection of natural processes has gained ascendency and 
exercised a permanent influence on men's conceptions of 
causal relations. For example, the law of gravitation is 
rigorously valid only in a vacuum ; when its operation is 
modified by the frictional resistance of the air we moderns 
say that the law is all the same universally valid ; we 
regard it, however, only as a tendency which does not in 
all circumstances become equally manifest. Now, the 
elements of this view are by no means foreign to Aristotle. 
He is familiar with the notion of tendency, for he more 
than once speaks of what nature aims at or desires without 
being able in every case to achieve ; he is equally well 
acquainted with the impediments which a tendency may 
encounter, as he mentions on occasion the conflict of move- 
ment-impulses which mutually check and, in the extreme 
cases, destroy each other ; he is aware, lastly, that the 
motives of human action are related to each other in just 
the same way. But to form by generalization out of these 
elements a comprehensive theory of causation in which 
they should all come by their rights was a feat which 
it perhaps did not lie in his genius to perform. His mind 
was much more inclined to the contemplation of the facts 
as given than to the analysis of them into components 
which for the most part are inferred and not perceived. 
The genius of the Atomists appears herein superior to his 
own ; though we are certainly unacquainted with the mode 
in which they carried out their supreme causal principle in 
particular cases or came to terms with the facts which 


opposed their main theory. It is in keeping with the 
contemporary phase of science that Aristotle is so much 
more frequently led to inquire into the causes of given 
effects than into the effects of given causes. This was 
another reason why the notion of probability was bound 
to assert itself by the side of necessity and occupy a con- 
siderable space in his expositions. " If a woman is pale," 
he once asks, " can I thence infer that she is with child ? 
No ; for there are other causes of paleness." In the back- 
ward argument from effect to cause that particular factor 
comes into play which has been named the "plurality of 

When, therefore (so we may summarize our reflexions), 
Aristotle set out from causes to discover their effects, he 
had not, as a rule, to deal with the simplest causes, such 
as generally only the hand of the experimenter can isolate ; 
resistances, interferences, modifications of every kind thus 
entered of necessity into the regularities under observation 
and seriously impaired their universality. But in the 
second 'and commoner case, when the why of a pheno- 
menon was in question, that is, when the cause or causes 
of an effect were to be ascertained, a strictly universal 
answer, not subject to any exception, still more rarely 
rewarded his search, owing to the " plurality of causes." 
Must we therefore suppose that Aristotle postulated or 
accepted as a fundamental principle a distinction between 
causal laws, which are in themselves universal, and others 
whose nature it is to be only partially valid, between 
factors which always work in the same way and others 
which work now this way, now that? This must be at 
least allowed to be extremely doubtful. In very many 
cases where a rule suffers exceptions the circumstance 
responsible for the exceptions could not possibly have 
remained hidden from him. If the same quantity of wine 
intoxicates many persons but leaves others sober, if the 
same rocking of a ship makes some passengers sea-sick 
while others escape, our philosopher could not doubt for 
a moment that the differing susceptibility of different sub- 
jects to the same influence is here at work. A thinker 


who appraised the power of practice and habit so high 
as to call habit " second nature," could at least not have 
failed to recognize the part which use and hardening play 
in modifying natural disposition and aptitude. 

As with physical, so with psychical stimuli, he must 
have recognized that the effects vary according to indi- 
vidual receptivity. We ought not really, therefore, to be 
in the least surprised when we find the author of the 
" Poetics " assigning a place to probability by the side of 
necessity whenever he speaks of the laws governing human 
action. It would indeed have been sheer folly to have 
represented all external events as acting by necessity, that 
is, always in the same manner and always with the same 
intensity on all individuals. That, on the contrary, different 
individuals react in the most diverse ways to the same 
stimulus, that the insult which one will forgive moves 
another to take a bloody revenge, that one will stake his 
life for a pleasure on which another looks with contempt — 
who needs to be told all this ? But while these individual 
differences are truly countless in number, they may yet 
be grouped under a few main types, of which some occur 
with greater and others with less frequency. For this 
reason it is allowable to speak of probability in this con- 
nexion. Even where he is demanding the strict observance 
of cause in respect of dramatic motive, Aristotle cannot 
avoid including probability as well as necessity. To admit 
the latter alone would have been permissible only on the 
supposition that the minds of the characters lay like an 
open book before the spectators. Consider Iphigenia, 
Alcestis, Macaria, who went to their death joyfully for 
the sake of kin and country — did it not tax the full poetic 
power of an Euripides to make such a victory over human 
and feminine weakness seem even probable .'' 

We have dwelt so long on this special point because 
it has been made a subject of wonder that in these dis- 
cussions Aristotle so often sets probability by the side of 
necessity. The truth is that in these and many kindred 
instances he could not help looking at the question of 
cause with the same eyes as ourselves and modern science. 


One and the same tendency constantly prevailing on the 
side of the causal factor, resistances or manifold modifying 
influences occurring on the side of the objects affected — in 
wide provinces of nature and human life this state of things 
must have seemed to him exactly as normal as it does 
to us moderns. It is only when we come to ask whether 
he advanced so far as to generalize this perception into 
a fundamental principle admitting of no exception, that 
some measure of doubt arises. The stage of development 
at which contemporary science stood was not favourable 
to such a generalization ; and he was in any case not 
driven in that direction by the special qualities of his own 
mind. It remains, then, not fully established that the 
distinction between the necessity and the probability of 
an occurrence was regarded by him as merely subjective, 
based on the incompleteness of our knowledge, or that 
he was prepared to admit what the Atomists, in virtue 
of their presuppositions, were hardly able to deny — that in 
every case where we knew the total conditions of an event 
with exhaustive completeness, we should never speak of 
probability but always of necessity. 

The foregoing remarks need to be supplemented. This 
will be done when we come to consider Aristotle's treat- 
ment of the problem of will. We shall find this treatment 
comparatively free from inconsistencies, though it as yet 
falls short of that iron rigour with which the Stoic Chry- 
sippus a century later laboured towards the solution of 
that problem with almost unsurpassable success. 

Be this, however, as it may, the fact (which, after all 
is only a conjecture) that Aristotle's faith in causality fell 
short of unconditional strictness, gives us no right to look 
down on him. The postulate of exceptionless uniformity 
in the working of causes or causal tendencies has possibly 
been the salvation of scientific progress up to now. It 
may be allowed to be a heuristic maxim of the very highest 
value. But there is nothing intrinsically incredible in the 
possibility, first emphasized by Laplace, that neither is 
any particle of matter ever indistinguishably like its 
neighbour nor any one causal sequence to any other ; that 


the appearance of absolute identity, so far as it actually 
presents itself, is due to our insufficient knowledge both of 
the fundamental processes and the ultimate components 
of the physical world. The weakness of our senses and 
the imperfection of even our most perfect instruments of 
precision may condemn us to work ever with the mere 
averages yielded by vast accumulations of particles and 
processes, while countless deviations from the mean, more 
or less trivial in amount, escape our perception. 

6. Aristotle would hardly have been Aristotle if he had 
brought the exposition of any of his doctrines to a well- 
rounded definite conclusion. On the subject now before 
us the Megarians had invented a puzzle to which he failed 
to give a fully unambiguous and satisfactory answer. Or, 
to be more accurate, what he failed in was not so much 
decisiveness in rejecting the Megarian conclusion, as exact- 
ness in solving the root-difficulty. What we refer to is the 
Megarian denial, already known to the reader (cf. Vol. II. 
p. 200 seq.), of contingency, or the possibility of things 
being otherwise than as they are. This denial also took 
the following form. Of two assertions relating to a future 
occurrence, one positive and the other its contradictory 
negative, it was argued that one must be true and the 
other false. If, then, the truth of the one prediction is 
a fixed and objective fact, how can the will or deed of man 
exert any influence on the course of things } This ques- 
tion, be it remarked by the way, has not the remotest 
connexion with the problem of the freedom of the will. 
The point here is not how a volition is produced, but how 
it can itself produce any change in the march of events ; in 
this connexion the spontaneous actions of animals might 
have been mentioned equally well with human acts of will. 
But further — and here is the kernel of the problem — if one 
of the two predictions must be right, the other must be 
impossible, and all futurity is withdrawn from the region of 
May-Be : it is necessary ; chance and haphazard have the 
ground cut from under them. The precision with which 
the paradox is stated and developed leaves nothing to be 
desired. But the re^Dly is not so satisfactory. It is merely 


an appeal to the obvious : we see that resolves and actions 
are not so void of effect as the argument would make 
them ; we see, too, that in this changing and inconstant 
world there is no lack of room for the application of the 
ideas of possibility and impossibility. " The possibility of 
being cut to pieces remains for this cloak, even if it never 
is so cut, but is first worn out by use. And should the 
cutting take place, there would still have existed for it the 
possibility of not being cut." 

What we miss in this reasoning is the reference to the 
wider and narrower fields of survey, a distinction which 
in truth affords each of these standpoints its justification. 
For a mind which embraced the totality of causes, all their 
combinations and interactions, there would, as we have 
already had occasion to point out (Vol. II. pp. 201, 202), 
be no such thing as chance or a possibility which failed to 
be realized. These are ideas which correspond to the 
limitation of our horizon, and are therefore suited to the 
demands both of practical life and of science as it actually 
exists, and as alone it is attainable by man. The confusing 
effect of the paradox is due, we think, to the fact that 
neither of the two points of view, each quite possible in 
itself, is maintained with complete strictness. 

All further study of Aristotle's theory of causation pre- 
supposes a knowledge of the fourfold meaning in which the 
word " cause " was used by the Stagirite. With these 
distinctions we hope to gain a familiar acquaintance in the 
survey which we are about to make of our philosopher's 
chief physical doctrines. 



aristotle as an investigator of nature. 

(Inorganic Nature.) 

I. The physical doctrines of Aristotle are a disappointing 
chapter in the history of science. They display to us an 
eminent mind wrestling with problems to which it is in 
no wise equal. In no wise. For, strangely enough, the 
excellences of Aristotle's intellect proved hardly less 
adverse to the success of his efforts than its defects. The 
Platonist and the Asclepiad are not here in conflict with 
one another. They are allied, to the double prejudice of 
scientific progress. How little that progress had to gain 
from the mastery of dialectic learnt in Plato's school, the 
reader has been able to judge from the glaringly contra- 
dictory constructions of the theory of elements ; and an 
important part of the Platonic heritage, the doctrine of 
" natural places," has already been seen to be a serious 
impediment to the sound understanding of physical things. 
But at the same time, that naive faith in the senses which 
is the foundation of the taste for observation and of exact- 
ness in observation was — however paradoxical it may sound 
— rather hurtful than helpful to Aristotle's researches in 
this province. For the great classifier was led by this bent 
of his faculties to linger in the field of observed facts in 
cases where the truth was to be sought and found not in 
these facts but only behind them. In what we might call 
the pre-cxpcrimental age no other path led to a deeper 
understanding of physical processes than that which had 
been trodden, first by the nature-philosophers, and then, 

Aristotle's retrograde physics. 109 

with growing audacity and increasing success, by the 

Invisible movements, invisible particles, their varying 
configurations and distances from each other, — these and 
kindred assumptions supplied the window through which 
the human mind has sought to spy into the inner machinery 
of phenomena, and has in fact been enabled to do so to 
better and better purpose. If a drop of water freezes, 
then melts, then evaporates, we have a process in which 
Anaximenes surmised, while Leucippus and Democritus 
detected with certainty, a closing together followed by a 
drawing apart of the same particles of matter. For the 
Stagirite the different states of aggregation were different 
elements, their interchange a transmutation of mutually 
alien substances defying every attempt at explanation. 
He stood here on the same ground as the men of a hoary 
past, the authors of the Homeric poems or of the Book of 

No less primitive in character is his theory of the 
heavens. In this connexion, too, he censures the nature- 
philosophers and the Atomists for opinions in which modern 
science declares them to have been perfectly right. That 
the farthest fixed stars harbour the same substances as our 
earth is to-day no longer a speculative assumption, but a 
fact established by the spectroscope. Just as little does any 
contemporary investigator of nature cherish the slenderest 
doubt that heavenly bodies come into and pass out of 
being ; in other words, that the constant regrouping of 
matter is equally the rule in all parts of the Cosmos ; that 
there is no privileged region exempt from the universal 
law of change. Just these very doctrines had already been 
familiar to the old Physiologists, and had by no one been 
formulated with greater strictness than by their advance 
guard, the adherents of Leucippus and Democritus (cf. 
V^ol. I. p. 366). It is very different with Aristotle. So 
firm is his conviction that the universe is divided into 
a perishable and an imperishable part, that he uses a 
really wonderful argument in censure of his predecessors. 
He complains that their hypothesis of the similarity of 


matter in all regions of the universe leaves that division 
unexplained ! Indeed, strictly taken, it does away with 
the possibility of assuming here (in the sublunary world) 
change and decay, there (in the regions above the moon) 
eternal constancy. For him, as we have already remarked, 
the ether was the fifth element, occupying the "highest 
heavenly regions." In other respects, too, he is so far from 
regarding things celestial with the sober eye of the natural 
philosopher, that he calls the sun, moon, and stars " divine 
bodies," the appearances in the sky "the most divine of 
phenomena," and does not shrink from representing the 
celestial spheres as being turned round in space by spirits 
or gods of the second order. Indeed, his astronomy is 
tinged so deeply with theology that it can be treated and 
understood only in connexion with his doctrine of the 
" Unmoved Mover." 

The Stagirite's theory of the heavens fell behind that of 
his predecessors, not only in its main outlines, but also in 
details. Thus while Democritus had already detected in 
the Milky Way a collection of a great number of stars, 
Aristotle took it for a mass of vapour thrown off and 
ignited by the motion of the heavens. He gave essentially 
the same explanation of comets, the right understanding 
of which, however, was denied equally to his predecessors 
and to his successors up to Seneca. Nero's tutor, in fact, 
was, if we may take his own word for it, the first to see 
in comets, not " suddenly blazing flames," but " stars with 
an exceedingly long period of revolution." 

2. It is not our fault if we are continually travelling 
from Aristotle back to Democritus. The comparison with 
Atomism forces itself upon us at every step. For it is 
not only in cases where the facts speak in unambiguous 
language that the Democritean doctrine of nature mani- 
fests an incontestable superiority over the Aristotelian. 
Even in matters which modern means of research have 
not finally cleared up, the paths trodden by Leucippus and 
Democritus have proved much the safer and more profit- 
able. The unitary nature of ultimate matter, that heirloom 
\vhich passed from the old nature-philosophy to the 


Atomists, has continually gained in credibility with the 
more modern progress of chemistry. Moreover, the so- 
called mechanical explanation of nature, that is, the attempt 
to derive all the changes that we perceive from changes in 
the positions of immutable portions of matter, or, more 
accurately, to connect the former with the latter, is winning 
new triumphs of greater and greater importance every 
day ; and these triumphs abide, no matter with what 
epistemological reservations we may prefer to hedge the 
atomic theory. The Aristotelian doctrine, which aban- 
doned all these conceptions, was smitten with sheer 
sterility. The science of the Renaissance period was 
obliged to shake off the fetters of his authority before it 
could return to the paths of progressive and fruitful re- 
search (cf. Vol. I. p. 349). 

Since for us the kernel of Aristotle's nature-theory is 
to be found in his repudiation of his predecessors' acquisi- 
tions, it is worth while to pursue a closer acquaintance with 
the arguments by which he sought to justify that reversal. 
In the very passage in which he accords to the Atomists 
the far-reaching praise of having more than others striven 
" to explain the processes of nature in a methodical and 
uniform manner " (cf p. 59), he raises the following objec- 
tion against the main principle of their teaching : " Why, 
then, should the property of indivisibility belong to the 
small bodies (atoms) any more than to the large ones ? " 
It was clearly because the distinction could be supported 
by no reason drawn from the inner nature and the pure 
notion of body, that the Stagirite deemed the hypothesis 
untenable. The adherents of atomism might, however, 
have justly replied to him : " We assume the actual indivi- 
sibility of those small bodies because this assumption, 
unlike your assimilation of them to the larger bodies 
proved by experience to be divisible, renders service to- 
wards the explanation of phenomena. But such opponents 
as yourself do exactly what you have lately reproached the 
Eleatics for doing : like them, you thrust the facts on one 
side and proceed as if dialectic were the only guide." 
Presently the atomic theory is blamed on the point in 


which it is most indubitably right. Changes in the state 
of aggregation cannot, it is urged, be explained by changes 
in the position of the smallest parts. Why? Because 
" the zvhole body, being continuous, has been first fluid and 
then hard and rigid." Here Anaxagoras might have come 
to the help of the Atomists, and reminded their adversary 
of the "weakness" of our senses (cf. Vol. I. p. 2ii seq.). 
Further, the increase or decrease in the volume of a body 
cannot, it is urged, be due to the accession or withdrawal 
of smallest particles, " for every part would not (in this 
case) have become larger (or smaller)." As if we had no 
right to assume, behind all the particles which we can 
perceive, other much smaller particles inaccessible to our 

When Aristotle notes the absence from the Atomists' 
writings of a strict separation between the ideas of mecha- 
nical mingling and true mixture (which clearly comprises 
our " solution " and " chemical combination "), we are 
unable to judge with full certainty whether his complaint 
is well-founded. All we know is that Leucippus' division 
of sensible qualities into primary and secondary made it 
possible for the creator of the atomic theory and his suc- 
cessors to wrestle with the difficulties of such problems 
much more successfully than their opponents. Their 
doctrine placed at their disposal many aids towards the 
solution of the problem as to how the same particles of 
matter can act upon our organs of sense or on other bodies 
differently according as they are joined in intimate union 
or merely form juxtaposed masses. The different kinds 
of arrangement and situation, which Democritus called 
" contact " and " turning " (cf. Vol. I. p. 323), further, the 
manifold modes of distributing the intervening spaces 
empty of matter supplied them in this regard with many 
an expedient (cf. Vol. I. p. 330). That a being with quite 
other senses than ours, or with vastly acuter senses, would 
receive from the same aggregation of matter impressions 
very different from those received by men, that a Lynceus 
would see sharply sundered particles where we perceive 
unbroken continuity, — these and similar propositions must 


have seemed to them the legitimate corollary of their 
presuppositions, and they could never have found in them 
a stone of stumbling as Aristotle did when he deduced 
such conclusions from their premisses. It is a main feature 
in our philosopher's treatment of these subjects that he 
seeks absolute differences where only relative ones are to 
be found. He holds that the union of two substances 
ceases to be a mixture when one of them obtains an 
immeasurable preponderance over the other, as when, for 
example, a drop of wine is introduced into 20,000 quarts 
of water. To this, of course, there is no objection to be 
made if it only means that in such a case the colour, the 
taste, or the intoxicating effect of the wine ceases to be 
perceptible by us. But Aristotle speaks of a loss of the 
"form" of wine, and obviously understands by the expres- 
sion an objective and absolute, not a subjective and relative 
change. Where would he have drawn a boundary-line of 
this character if he had been acquainted with tests which 
disclose clear traces of the presence of a substance long 
after it has lost the power of affecting our senses — tests, 
moreover, which by no means justify the assumption that 
final and impassable barriers are to be met with, even at 
the vast distances here suggested ? But the atomistic 
hypothesis, we may add, was fundamentally in harmony 
with the revelations which we owe to the reagents and 
instruments of precision used by modern science, auxi- 
liaries thousands of millions of times more powerful than 
our own senses. 

At this point let us indulge in a digression. Even the 
history of science is not without its humour. It treats us 
sometimes to the most amusing surprises. Such a surprise 
has been provided in connexion with the truly Aristotelian 
hyperbole just mentioned. The Stagirite loves to replace 
a long-drawn-out chain of reasoning by a drastic instance, 
which beats down all opposition by its extravagance. Thus 
when he is contending that to be beautiful a thing must be 
capable of being seen all at once, he illustrates the point 
by a supposed animal 10,000 stadia long, which would be 
too big to be beautiful, since its size would mock every 


attempt at a comprehensive survey. In another passage 
he speaks of a ship a span long, which, just because of its 
diminutiveness, would cease to perform the function or to 
deserve the name of a ship. The drop of wine in 20,000 
quarts of water is clearly to be understood in the same 
sense. It is a hyperbolical expression, intended to illus- 
trate, in a telling and picturesque fashion, the impossibility 
of detecting a small amount of matter which is lost in a 
mixture. It is thus highly diverting to learn that the 
auxiliaries of modern science have proved more than equal 
even to so extreme a case. A drop of wine in the quantity 
of water mentioned means a dilution of not quite i^ 
millionths of a gramme to the litre. The almost thirtyfold 
greater dilution of sodium vapour in the atmosphere has 
been detected by the spectroscope ; and the electrometer 
has revealed a not much lower dilution of silver iodide in 
water. It has long ago been remarked that the paradoxes 
of yesterday are the truisms of to-day. It might be added 
that the " palpable impossibilities," stamped with the seal 
of absurdity, of one age, are the acknowledged, assured, and 
exact truths of another. 

3. One of the points of controversy between Aristotle 
and the Atomists brings us back to the theory of cause. 
Our readers remember the refusal of Democritus to seek a 
ground or cause for the original beginning of things. " So 
it always happens," or " So also it used to happen before " 
— such a pronouncement always seemed to him a sufficient 
answer to the Why of those causal connexions which we 
call fundamental laws of nature. That in acknowledging 
ultimate facts, which are only to be established empirically 
and admit of no further reduction, Democritus took up a 
position which is also that of the science of to-day, is a 
view which we have already sufficiently laboured to 
expound and to establish (cf Vol. I. p. 340). Equally 
familiar to us is the exactly opposite opinion of Plato, 
which regards all that is given merely in experience as an 
impediment and a barrier, which nearly everywhere gives 
to the analysis of concepts precedence over the ascertain- 
ment of facts, and which, in addition, insists on viewing the 


knowledge of nature from the standpoint of the " better," 
or of teleology (cf. Vol. III. pp. 40 and 88). The same 
direction was followed by Aristotle in the investigation of 
causes ; his intellectual temperament was influenced by his 
great teacher in a far higher degree than is generally 

4. The Aristotelian method of research is acquainted 
with four kinds of cause. Three of them, however, the 
formal or notional, the motive or efficient, and the final 
cause, are sometimes comprehended into a unity and 
opposed to the fourth, the material cause. Other group- 
ings, too, are not wanting ; and reciprocal relations of the 
following kind are acknowledged : bodily exercise is called 
the efficient cause of good health, while this latter is the 
final cause of exercise. But that twofold division, which, 
so to speak, distinguishes a higher and a lower region in 
the realm of cause, is the commoner and the more charac- 
teristic. In regard to matter, Plato's pupil completed the 
breach which his master had opened with the hylozoism 
of the older thinkers. The essential attribute of matter is, 
according to him, pure passivity. It is the medium in 
which the purposes of nature find their realization ; but it is 
a refractory medium, resisting the impress of form. Alatter 
supplies the justification of all that we now call " dysteleo- 
logy ; " it is the vehicle of what recently has been aptly 
termed Platonic Alanicha^ism. It contains, too, the ultimate 
root of that which is opposed to purpose, but also of the 
purposeless or indifferent, among which things are reckoned 
all individual varieties found among organized beings, and 
incidentally also, though without logical justification, their 
sexual characters. Another inconsistency of this theory, 
its relation to the doctrine of natural places, has already 
been treated by us in anticipation. 

This deanimation of matter, this view of it as merely 
passive and receptive, is greatly predominant with Aristotle 
and full of far-reaching consequences. Predominant, we 
must say, but not sole sovereign, for here, too, contra- 
dictions are not wanting. In particular passages the old 
Hellenic spirit breaks forth with moving ardour, and 


bursts the bonds of system — that spirit, we mean, for 
which all nature is alive and the All endowed with soul. 
But the rule is the depotentialization of matter, as we have 
called it, such as we have found prefigured in Plato's 
teaching and discussed in connexion with Atomism (cf. 
Vol. I. p. 343). The observation which we there made 
on the probable motive of such depotentialization, on the 
preponderant direction of the researcher's eye to bodies 
of moderate size, needs here some modification. It is true 
that the movements of the smallest particles, which played 
a leading part in the Democritean system, and which 
modern physics, too, sees no reason for attributing to ex- 
ternal impact, are not to be found in Aristotle's picture 
of the universe. But the celestial motions, on the bare 
ground of the perfection of their supposed circular form, 
are ascribed to a purely spiritual being, the First Mover, 
as their author. His agency, operating on the celestial 
sphere, which, despite his immateriality he is supposed to 
" touch," one knows not how, and to " move, as a loved 
object" moves the lover, forms according to Aristotle's 
teaching the ultimate source of all heavenly and earthly 
motions (cf p, 65). These motions themselves, however, 
apart from the pressing of the elements towards their 
"natural places," are entirely occasioned by material con- 
tact ; they are propagated exclusively by impact and 
pressure. To this extent the Stagirite's universe resembles 
a piece of mechanism in which there is nowhere to be 
perceived any source of motion, but only the transmission 
of motion ; and as an infinite regress is counted among 
the impossibilities, we are again referred to a First Mover 
as origin and starting-point. 

5. By " movement " it should also be noticed that 
Plato's disciple understands change in general, quantita- 
tive as well as qualitative, together with the coming into 
and the passing out of existence (so far as these are 
admitted at all). But in spatial movement or change of 
place he recognizes a condition of those other kinds of 
'' movement ; " for (|uantitative change implies an accession 
or withdrawal of matter, and qualitative change, of which 


destruction and its opposite are only extreme cases, the 
local congress of an agent and a patient. 

Thus in respect of motion a double series of considera- 
tions is presented to us. On the one hand, we have the 
discussions on motion in the widest and most general 
sense. It is called by our philosopher the " actuality of 
the potential," the realization of what is in itself merely 
possible, an " incomplete reality," because with the attain- 
ment of its aim it always ceases to exist, a something 
which is ever accomplishing itself in contradictions. We 
have already pointed out the emptiness of this last defi- 
nition. But that such definitions do enrich our knowledge 
and increase our insight, that they are more than " a 
scholastic husk with no kernel inside," we are as little 
inclined to doubt as an eminent contemporary with whom 
we do not often find ourselves in agreement. In respect 
of that movement in space which conditions all other 
kinds of movement we do not, it is true, meet with either 
ascertainment of facts, which could only have been gained 
by experiment, nor with their anticipation by means of 
great hypotheses such as the genius of the age of en- 
lightenment had produced. But the endeavour after 
clearer fundamental notions on these subjects bore valu- 
able fruit, and still more often assisted the progress of 
thought indirectly, by the precise statement of questions 
and the distinct formulation of answers. 

6. Since change of place is like every other change 
a process in time, the concept of time is in this connexion 
entitled to the first position. The Aristotelian definition 
of time may be rendered thus : " Time is a continuous 
magnitude, more particularly it is the magnitude of events 
in respect of their order of succession." The word " mag- 
nitude " here represents the Greek word for " number." 
The substitution is intended to avoid misunderstandings 
which have actually occurred, and which the Stagirite 
himself foresaw, as he showed by expressly pointing out 
that the word "number" did not here denote the means 
but the object of counting — the "counted" or "countable." 
If we have further replaced " movement " by " event," our 


justification is that in this section the former word bears 
its most comprehensive meaning, and apph"es to every 
conceivable physical or psychical process. It is so in 
the memorable passage which runs : " For even when it 
is dark (and still), and we receive no impression through 
the body but some movement ( = emotion) arises in the 
soul, we have at once the impression of the lapse of time." 
Finally, to our "order of succession" there corresponds in 
the original the combination of words " earlier and later," 
a combination which we cannot reproduce without pro- 
ducing an appearance which is both false and very 
derogatoiy to Aristotle's exactness of thought. For 
nothing could be more obvious than the objection that 
in the expression " earlier and later " the notion of 
sequence or temporal succession is already contained, that 
the definition therefore revolves in a circle, assuming in 
the explanation the thing which is to be explained. But 
this is by no means the case. The expression concerned 
is in Aristotle very far from being exclusively appro- 
priated to relations of time ; it is used, on the contrary, 
and primarily so in the present instance, in a spatial sense 
(fore and rear) ; and the idea involved is only secondarily 
applied to movements or processes through the media- 
tion of the idea of magnitude. To the local coexistence 
of material magnitudes there corresponds the temporal 
succession of processes or movements. 

The treatment of the concept of time is followed by 
the remarkable question whether time, which is a number, 
or rather a numerable, would continue to exist in the 
absence of a soul capable of counting and its power of 
thought .'' The answer, if we understand it rightly, is to 
the effect that the question leads back to another and 
deeper question, in which it disappears : whether that 
which is the basis of time — namely, movement or process — 
is possible without a perceiving soul ? This reminds us 
of another equally isolated utterance, which also might 
be described as a fore-gleam of the Critical philosophy : 
" The soul is in a certain sense the totality of all things." 
This pronouncement is justified somewhat as follows : All 


that is knowable is an object partly of perceptive sensation, 
partly of the thinking intelligence ; but both of these are 
in a certain sense identical with their object, for, if not 
the stone itself, yet the form or notion of the stone is 
present in the soul. 

The discussion of time also becomes an occasion to 
raise the problem of infinity, a problem which the Stagirite 
has treated with penetrating acuteness and perfect clear- 
ness of thought. All the more surprising is it to find the 
infinity of time supported on a ground which, whether valid 
or not, in any case admits of an equally just application 
to space. This equivalence is completely overlooked by 
Aristotle, who asserts that time is unbounded, but space 
bounded. Beyond every " Now " — that is, beyond every 
individual moment whatsoever — he argues that there must 
exist another Now ; why, we cannot but ask, must there 
not be another " Here " beyond each particular Here, 
beyond any given point in space .'' We do not undertake 
to defend this inference : it is simply an appeal to our 
powers of mental representation. But how could we repre- 
sent to our minds that which, whether objectively real or 
not, has never entered the horizon of our experience either 
directly or by the mediation of any analogy whatever .-• 
This is no less true of any possible boundary of time than 
of a boundary of space. 

7. He also undertakes to prove that the three dimen- 
sions of bodies and the space which limits them are the 
only dimensions possible. This proof proceeds by an 
appeal to the doctrines of the Pythagoreans touching the 
trinity of beginning, middle, and end, and to linguistic 
usage, which, in the case of two things, speaks of " both," 
and reserves " all " till three is reached. The three dimen- 
sions of space are said to correspond to the only three 
natural movements — from the centre, to the centre, round 
the centre ; here the scheme of three elements already 
known to the reader (cf. p. G'^ is again drawn into con- 
nexion with the argument. A similar a priori character 
belongs to many of the numerous objections which Aristotle 
marshals against the existence of empty space. Even the 


fiction of " natural places " is employed as a weapon in this 
battle. He contends that the different directions of motion 
have been, so to speak, disposed of by the elements ; what, 
then, remains for empty space ? Whither should a body 
situated in such space move ? The most valuable part of 
this discussion is, in our opinion, the indication of how it 
is possible for a body to make way for another even with- 
out an empty space ; an allusion is here made to vortices. 
This is the expedient used by Plato to explain the process 
of breathing, and is naturally only applicable to rotary 
motions which return upon themselves (cf. Vol. III. p. 224). 
It makes little difference to the advantage possessed by 
the Atomist in the treatment of this fundamental question, 
that the most modern physics substitute for perfectly 
empty space a space occupied by matter of extraordinary 
tenuity, and supposes the interstices filled by an absolutely 
elastic medium. 

If empty space was for the Stagirite an absurdity, an 
infinitely vast, empty space must have seemed to him 
doubly impossible. For infinite greatness and infinite 
smallness are equally rejected by him as realized or com- 
pleted magnitudes ; it is only as becoming, as increasing 
or decreasing, that he admits the infinite at all. " The 
infinite," so runs a wonderfully pregnant little sentence 
of his, " does not subsist, but becomes." Unlimited addi- 
tion, unlimited division, are the modes in which the two 
species of it arise. An example of the first kind, one, be 
it noted, raised above all doubt and all the contentions of 
the schools, is provided by the series of natural numbers. 
Why should we not, were eternal life our portion, go on 
counting for ever, continually reaching higher and higher 
numbers ? To this unlimited addition is opposed the 
process of unlimited division, the diminution of unity by 
splitting it up into ever smaller fractions. 

The question now presents itself whether the matter 
which fills space is also infinitely divisible, and whether 
it is similarly capable of indefinite increase. Aristotle 
answers the first part affirmatively and the second part 
negatively. He reaches these results by long, winding 


arguments, conducted with all the power of his subtle 
mind. In respect of the infinite divisibility of what fills 
space, he first of all takes up the standpoint of Zeno in 
one of his paradoxes, and of Plato nearly at the end of his 
" Parmenides." If matter were infinitely divisible, it would 
be possible, by going on dividing it, to "crumble" it away 
to nothing ; we should then have to say that magnitudes 
are built up out of what has no magnitude, bodies out of 
the incorporeal. Thus the verdict is for those who hold 
the existence of ultimate irresolvable units or " indivisible 
magnitudes." Though up to this point Aristotle is on the 
side of the Atomists, what he is really contending for is 
the existence, not so much of ultimate bodies possessing 
definite form and magnitude, such as Leucippus and 
Democritus postulated, but of spatial units having the 
nature of points, such entities as the " philosophical " 
atoms devised by Boscovich. But now comes an abrupt 
turn. It is accomplished by means of arguments which, so 
far as we know, have never been fully explained by any 
interpreter. The heart of them is probably to be found in 
the thesis, maintained elsewhere, that just as little as a 
contimncDL of time can arise out of the separate indivisible 
instants of time, out of what the Stagirite calls the " Now," 
so little can a continwim of space arise out of separate 
points or spatial units. The defence which was to be 
raised against a supposed breaking up or crumbling away 
of the matter filling space appears on closer examination to 
be inadequate, and to leave its purpose unfulfilled. While 
Aristotle (perhaps for good reasons) omits an explanation 
of the continuum, the difficulties of the Atomistic theory 
which wc have just described seem to him in any case to 
outweigh those of the contrary hypothesis. 

Coming now to the counterpart of spatial division, 
that is, spatial enlargement : in this regard, too, says Aris- 
totle, no limit is set to our thought. But thought is one 
thing, fact another. Nothing hinders us from imagining 
the bodily measurements of any one of us multiplied 
indefinitely. " But yet no man has ever been known whose 
limbs reached from one gate of the city to another." 


8. As we have already noticed, Aristotle's denial of 
empty space paved the way for his denial of an infinitely 
extended universe. An infinite space full, and uniformly 
full, of matter, presents enhanced difficulties from which 
even eminent thinkers of our own time have been unable to 
find an escape. But Aristotle needed no such aggravation 
of difficulty to induce him to reject the idea. His argu- 
ments against the existence of spatial infinity form a remark- 
able mixture of the subtle and the crude, the valuable and 
the worthless. The great majority of the old nature- 
philosophers are here described by the Stagirite as his 
opponents. And it cannot be denied that those thinkers, 
on occasions where they really desired to speak only of 
vast numbers and huge spaces exceeding all possibility 
of human measurement, used the words " infinite " and 
" infinity " with a careless indifi"erence to the consequences 
which might be drawn from those terms. Aristotle drew 
those consequences ; and it was not difficult for him to 
show that spatial infinity, strictly taken, is quite incom- 
patible with many of our notions derived from finite 
experience. We cannot, it may be added, expect to 
tamper seriously with the fabric of our experience at a 
vital spot and then find the remainder of it intact. But 
our philosopher goes further, and draws conclusions, the 
nullity of which need not detain us, from the incompati- 
bility of the hypothesis in question with a number of 
arbitrary theories, such as are the assumption of a centre 
of the universe, the geocentric hypothesis, and the doctrine 
of natural places. What most astonishes is, however, the 
length to which he is carried by his reaction against 
the youthful and exuberant audacity of his predecessors. 
The illustrious thinker here falls a victim to the crudest 
illusions of the senses. The visible sphere of the heavens, 
which overarches our heads, is for him the whole 
universe. He even sets himself to prove, seriously and 
emphatically, that there can be but this one heaven. 
Every thought of the possibility of other stellar systems, 
of a true universe, of other stars situated outside this 
hollow sphere in the most varying planes and distances. 


is cither alien to him or combated by him. All the 
matter that ever was, so he thinks, has been used up 
and exhausted in the formation of this one heaven. An 
excess of matter is so little to be found beyond that 
hollow sphere as a space bereft of matter. And as with 
the absence of matter every possibility lapses of any and 
every motion or change, so beyond that boundary — thus 
he concludes with an in itself admirable courage and 
consistency of thought — there can also be no time, for 
time is only a magnitude of events or processes. 

9. The hymn of praise which Aristotle chants to the 
honour of the " one, only, and perfect " heaven, which 
is also " without beginning and imperishable," rests on 
foundations which, though certainly unsound, by no means 
lack all plausibility. At first, indeed, the Stagirite has 
to fight down a difficulty which he has himself called 
to life. Against the uniqueness of this heavenly sphere 
of ours an objection may be raised whose sources lie at 
a considerable depth. Are we ever justified in believing 
in anything unique ? Have we a right to suppose that 
a generic type, a " form," is ever realized in one sole 
exemplar .■* It is not only from the standpoint of Plato's 
doctrine of ideas that such an hypothesis seems inadmis- 
sible. But here an important distinction is necessary. 
This inadmissibility is said to exist for all forms which 
are impressed on matter and for the renewed impression 
of which new matter is ever ready ; the exhaustion of 
all matter, of all " physical and perceptible body," in the 
formation of this one heaven brings about an exception 
to the general rule, and justifies the uniqueness of that 

Much greater depths are reached by the demonstration 
which is intended to confirm the eternity of the celestial 
sphere. It rests in the last resort on the empirical 
connexion which obtains between coming into and passing 
out of existence on the one hand, between both these 
and qualitative change on the other. Here we may first 
call to memory a profound saying of the Eleatic Melissus : 
" If the universe were to change in ten thousand )ears 


by as much as a hair's breadth, it would be destroyed 
in the course of all time" (cf. Vol. I. p. i88). This 
reminiscence is all the more in place, as in the very 
passage we are considering, Aristotle refers to the views 
of his predecessors both more copiously and more 
benevolently than is his wont. In so doing he lets fall 
a fine saying. The reader ought to examine the claims 
of conflicting theories before he gives his verdict, in order 
that he may not appear to convict the rejected opinion 
unheard, and as it were by default ; further, he who 
desires to come to a true decision should put himself 
rather in the position of an umpire than in that of a 

Out of the demonstration, which is spun to considerable 
length, we may perhaps extract, as forming the kernel 
of it, the following propositions. It will not do to hold, 
with Plato, that the heavens had a beginning but will have 
no end, for experience teaches the contrary, that whatever 
has a beginning perishes. It is also clear that the com- 
ponents which have united to form a whole, and which 
therefore were previously able to exist apart from such 
combination, must possess the capacity for independent 
existence, and therefore be able to return to it. Again, 
the beginning as well as the end of things is coupled 
with qualitative change, and the same causal factors which 
produce change of quality also bring things into and 
out of existence. Now, for our philosopher the qualita- 
tive changelessness of the stars and other bodies enclosed 
in the celestial sphere is a fact firmly established by 
experience — an experience, we may remark, of which 
the many centuries old astronomical observations of the 
Egyptians and Babylonians play by no means the 
smallest part. But causal factors — here we come to 
the last link in the argument — which during vast intervals 
of time have not revealed their presence by the slightest 
trace, may be taken as non-existent ; the possibility as 
well of their past as of their future operation, and so of 
their cumulative production of great total effects, may 
thus be regarded as exchided. 


Plausible as all this sounds, it is devoid of probative 
force. It is much as if one were to reject the theory of 
descent on the ground that a gradual transformation 
of species cannot be proved to have occurred within the 
historical period. Here again the great Atomists have 
seen much further than Aristotle (cf. Vol. I. p. 366). 
They had the same facts before their eyes. But the 
absence of a vision-clouding veil permitted them to 
recognize the truth where the unsuspected agency of 
prejudice and superstitious opinion (perfection of the 
spherical form, existence and power of star-spirits, 
neighbourhood of the First Mover) hid it from the gaze 
of the Stagirite. To this was added a remarkable 
difference of endowment. That supple and well-developed 
faculty of imagination which is the instrument of genius 
no less for scientific discovery than for artistic creation, 
was certainly possessed in lower degree by Aristotle than 
by Leucippus and Democritus. Those who like stronger 
language may speak of his fancy as dwarfed and weak 
in the wing. At all events, there was lacking in him 
that strong impulse of the mind which has both the 
craving and the power to press on far beyond and above 
tlie facts presented to the senses. 

10. The comparative narrowness of Aristotle's world- 
scheme was also antagonistic to another fundamental 
doctrine of the old nature-philosophers, that of alternating 
cosmic periods. It is true that his speculation did not 
succeed in altogether leaving the groove, already worn so 
deeply, of cyclic theories. But he confined this mutation 
exclusively to the history of the earth and the history of 
mankind conditioned by it. The bold constructions of his 
predecessors, among whom he refers to Heraclitus and 
Empedocles, while he might also have named Anaxi- 
mander and Plato himself (in the " Statesman "), are 
altogether foreign to his thought. His system comprehends 
no Cosmogony, no Zoogony, no Anthropogony. And not, 
as might perhaps be thought, because scientific caution 
restrained him from such adventurous enterprises. From 
adventurous recklessness even his own cyclic doctrine is 


not free. It is to the effect that the human race has from 
eternity resided on this earth, which Hkewise is without 
beginning and without a preliminary history. The author 
of the " Politics " and the " Poetics " acknowledges a pro- 
gress, an ascent from lower to higher forms of social 
organization, of science, and of art, as accomplished by 
our species. Here, we may remark by the way, is the only 
instance of true development, gradually realized in the 
course of time, that is to be met with in the teaching of 
Aristotle. This movement has already reached its goal 
times without number, and has as often been compelled 
to ebb back to its starting-point. For secular catastrophes, 
repeated with immeasurable frequency, have laid the earth 
waste, destroyed the race of mankind down to a small 
remnant, and then allowed that race to rise anew and enter 
upon and retravel its ascending path of civilization again 
and again and again. 

This doctrine is at once the weakened reflex of an old 
Pythagorean faith (cf. Vol. I. p. 140 seq^, and the con- 
sequence of the assumed eternity of the earth and the 
human race combined with the fact that the Stagirite, no 
less than ourselves, was acquainted with peoples of primi- 
tive rudeness and savagery. This last circumstance neces- 
sarily leads — apart from hypotheses of degeneration — to 
the surprised question why civilization has in so many 
instances not yet advanced beyond its rudiments. The 
answers which we are accustomed to give to this question : 
the gradual cooling and solidification of a gaseous earth 
projected into space immeasurable ages ago ; the late 
appearance upon it of the human race, with an intermin- 
able pedigree of brutish ancestors ; historical accidents of 
every kind, now hastening and now retarding the rise and 
the progress of civilization, — all these answers were either 
unknown to him or deemed untenable. P'rom these diffi- 
culties and perplexities a means of escape was provided by 
the circulatory theory of social progress, preparation for 
which had been made by the cyclic doctrines of his pre- 
decessors and the records of great floods and kindred 


1 1. We have now, without noticing it, entered the region 
of the Aristotelian geology. Our philosopher knows and 
uses here the principle, formerly taught by Xenophanes, of 
the summation of minute effects (cf Vol. I. p. 162), as well 
as that of the periodicity of alternately recurring changes. 
Thus he admits for the history of the earth modes of 
explanation which he rejected in the case of the Cosmos. 
It is true that he lays distinct and particular emphasis on 
the fact that he is treating only of partial, not of universal, 
changes. But even with this limitation, his admission con- 
flicts with a wonderful argument which he adduces in sup- 
port of the changelessness of the Cosmos, and which we 
permitted ourselves to overlook in that connexion because 
of its manifest unsoundness : A cause which remains 
eternally like itself, as does the Godhead, cannot act now 
in this way and now in that. Applied with full strictness, 
this argument would hold good against the alternation of 
day and night, the circle of the seasons, all change, all pro- 
cesses, even the march of time itself; it would, in fact, call 
a halt to the universe. This would make Aristotle the 
natural philosopher into one of those " unnatural philo- 
sophers " for being which he so severely lashed the Eleatics 
(cf. Vol. I. pp. 166 and 552). 

Warming and cooling are represented as producing in 
the earth's interior changes which are comparable to the 
different ages in the lives of plants and animals, and which 
bring in their train a periodic alternation of sea and dry 
land. The gradual drying up of rivers and the final dis- 
appearance of springs transforms the sea into land ; the 
water-courses thence dislodged reappear in other regions 
and there convert the dry land into sea. The way in which 
this transformation is conditioned by the sun's journey 
and the revolution of the heavens is suggested with great 
obscurity. Full clearness is accorded us only on the one 
point that these alternating processes are accomplished 
in periods compared with which the life of men is pitifully 
short. But in .spite of this, Aristotle claims to detect in the 
Homeric poems, comparatively young as they are, traces 
of a less advanced stage in the desiccation of Egypt as well 


as of some districts of Greece. He proceeds, not unjustly 
for once, to censure the ancients — among whom, it is true, 
Herodotus and Thucydides are not to be reckoned (cf. 
Vol. I. pp. 263 and 512) — who, because of their "limited 
survey," generalized these partial processes, and, on the 
ground of the observed facts, pronounced in favour of a 
progressive increase of land-surface. 

12. We have been able to describe as justified the 
above expression of blame, which is directed chiefly against 
Anaximander ; the reverse is the case with the reproaches 
which in a neighbouring passage Aristotle levels against 
Anaximander's immediate successor. The dart of poisoned 
scorn which the Stagirite aims at Anaximenes recoils upon 
himself. At the point where he is about to treat of the 
winds, then of rivers and the sea, he makes an astonishingly 
pretentious opening remark. None of the older writers, 
he says, has produced anything on the subject which might 
not have been contributed by the man in the street. And 
immediately afterwards he proceeds to rebuke those who 
see in the wind " nothing else but air in motion," who 
therefore regard all the different winds as essentially the 
same and only distinguished by the regions over which they 
have blown. The context of the passage allows no doubt 
that among those on whom the Stagirite here pours the 
vials of his scorn, Anaximenes occupies the foremost place. 
He himself explains the cause of the winds to be what 
he calls " dry exhalation," a species of which smoke is a 
sub-variety, and from which stones and other non-fusible 
minerals have derived their origin. On a level with this 
application of an obscure fiction, or with his ]3olemic 
against those who derive all springs from atmospheric pre- 
cipitation, is his confident explanation of a phenomenon 
before which modern research halts helpless and unable to 
do more than acknowledge a primordial fact — the saltness 
of the sea. 

Confidence in the false is an attribute of Aristotle the 
physicist and metaphysician which greatly outweighs his 
occasional fits of modesty. It is a characteristic which 
sometimes we may find amusing ; but in truth it teaches 


an impressive lesson in the duty of self-criticism, and 
supplies an urgent warning against intellectual arrogance. 
Near the end of the twelfth book of the " Metaphysics " 
there is an accumulation, such as perhaps can nowhere 
else be found, of expressions of satisfaction with his own 
achievements and of the depreciation which he thinks the 
due of all his predecessors, including this time Plato him- 
self. Nearly all the fundamental problems of natural 
philosophy are there passed in review, and continually 
the same refrain occurs : " On this subject no one says 
anything that is right." And the general summing-up is 
given in the words : " No one can produce anything sound 
on the subject unless he says the same as we do." 

And how slender was the foundation for this self- 
confidence ! The acumen of the brilliant dialectician cer- 
tainly did not fail him even in these regions. His physics, 
indeed, may be described as misused dialectic. But his 
infatuation with a priori and superstitious prejudices, his 
excessive trust in the supposed kernel of truth contained 
in widespread and ancient opinions, his fear, due to 
deficient imagination, of bold hypotheses that far tran- 
scend the bounds of the sensible, and finally a preference, 
partly an old Greek heritage, partly a personal characteristic, 
for comparatively narrow and circumscribed horizons, a 
preference which we shall meet with again in his political 
theories, — all these factors co-operated to dwarf the Stagi- 
rite's achievement in this field, and to stamp it with the 
seal of retrogression. 

The task which now presents itself of discussing the 
second pair of causes gives us a welcome opportunity to 
enter a region in which the intellect of our philospher has 
left a far deeper trace, the region of organic nature and 
biological research. 




aristotle as an investigator of nature. 

(Continuation : Organic Nature.) 

I. Were Aristotle not known to us as a philosophic 
encyclopaedist of universal range, we might almost have 
been tempted to take him for a specialist in zoology ; so 
remarkable is the depth of his studies in this field and so 
astoni.shing the magnitude of his achievement. The com- 
pass of his main work on zoology is to that of his writings 
on inorganic nature (" Physics," " On the Heavens," " On 
Generation and Corruption," " Meteorology ") in the pro- 
portion of about three to two. It is almost equal to the 
compass of his anthropological works, using the term in 
its widest sense ("On the Soul," "Ethics," "Politics," 
" Rhetoric," and " Poetics," the second lost book of which 
last we suppose as long as the first), and again about equal 
to that of the works on general philosophy, fundamental 
for all subjects alike (the books of the " Organon " and 
the " Metaphysics "). The other main division of organic 
life evidently occupied the Stagirite much less persistently. 
The extant tract " On Plants " is no doubt spurious, and 
gives us no right to draw conclusions ; but the fact that 
his successor Theophrastus treated botany in two extensive 
works, which have come down to us, clearly indicates that 
the master had left the pupil much to do in this direction. 

Was it a taste inherited from his medical ancestors that 
moved Aristotle to this preferential treatment of animal 
life ? Or was it as being the next thing to man that the 
beast so particularly engaged the interest of one who 
probed all sides of human existence with never-failing 


ardour ? In any case he was, even according to his own 
view, least of a specialist in mathematical and astronomical 
matters, in dealing with which he so often appeals to the 
" expert " and the " competent judge." It agrees with this 
that he cultivated the neighbouring field of physical and 
chemical studies with far less success than the biological 
field. We might almost describe him as one who was a 
humanist in his natural philosophy, one whose intellect 
grew in penetrative power the nearer his subject approached 
to that other pole of all knowledge, the science of mind 
and the soul. 

Aristotle has, moreover, himself declared the grounds 
of his preference for the organic world in memorable words. 
" Here, too, there are gods " — it is thus that, like Hera- 
clitus, he apostrophizes the student about to enter this 
department of research. In it more than elsewhere he 
sees the rule, not of blind chance but of purpose, rooted 
in the beautiful (of the "ideal," we should say). If any 
one were inclined to sniff at this employment upon the 
bodies of animals for the reason that blood, flesh, mucus, 
etc., are not exalted objects of contemplation, he could 
hardly think otherwise of the study of man. But in each 
case the important thing is not the matter, but the way 
in which it is compounded, and the whole being. Truly 
the imperishable bodies revealed to us in the vault of 
heaven are infinitely higher than all earthly things ; but 
their vast distance places them out of the reach of accurate 
inspection. We must therefore content ourselves with 
little, just as the lover prefers a glimpse accorded him 
by the object of his love to the full view of any other 
face. In respect of the animal world a kind of compensa- 
tion is given us. Though these perishable beings may not 
be comparable in value to the eternal stars, yet even the 
ugliest and meanest of them, just because they are nearer 
and more familiar to us, afford " unspeakable pleasures " 
to be enjoyed by those " who are not devoid of the philo- 
sophic sense and are devoted to the study of causes." 

2. In what precedes, we have already found ourselves 
obliged to refer to the idea of purpose. In entering the 


region of organic nature we have reached the true home 
and principal workshop of the fourth of Aristotle's causes, 
the final cause, which, besides, makes so near an approach 
to the third, the notional or formal cause, that the two not 
seldom coincide. For the Stagirite shows himself a true 
disciple of Plato in this, that he makes things receive their 
definiteness from their generic types, though these no 
longer confront them from without, but reside within them 
as immanent. But the question is not hereby solved as 
to where those qualities have their root which vary from 
individual to individual, instead of being common to a 
whole species, e.g. the brown or blue colour of our eyes. 
The goal-seeking character of nature is now paralleled 
with the technical skill of man, to which it is regarded 
as cognate. If houses were natural products — he says 
in a noteworthy passage of the " Physics " — they would 
be like the houses actually built by human art. It is 
a fundamental rule for him that "Nature does nothing 
in vain." Not, it is true, that even this rule is without 
exceptions. That the ideal or natural purpose does not 
everywhere and at all times win through and arrive at 
full realization is a patent fact to which the Stagirite 
was anything but blind. He acknowledges in such cases 
the victorious power of recalcitrant matter (vXt;), which, 
elsewhere, it is true, he describes as mere featureless 
potentiality. Here, too, his mind travels in the grooves 
cut by Plato. In particular he compares monstrosities, 
the occurrence of which in the animal world claimed much 
of his attention, to the failures which arise in all technical 
pursuits, to the scribe's slip of the pen, the physician's or 
apothecary's undue dilution of a drug. 

Aristotle's teleological interpretation of the universe 
outgrew the cramping bounds by which that conception 
had been confined in the thought of Xenophon, perhaps 
of Socrates. It is not man and the profit that he draws 
from the well-ordering of the universe that stands in the 
foreground of his contemplation. It is rather the well- 
ordered beauty of the Cosmos itself that determines his 
judgment, wherein he resembles Anaxagoras, Diogenes 


of ApoUonia, and Plato. The occasional and isolated 
accomplishment of a result — somewhat to this effect runs 
a passage on the subject in the " Physics " — passes with 
us for an accident ; but where a process or agency achieves 
its result with exceptionless regularity, or even in the great 
majority of cases, there we have a right to assume an 
effort directed to an end. Whoever at the time of the 
Trojan war had observed the advantageous disposition 
of the Greek army and the subordination of its movements 
would have been well justified in supposing a guiding 
purpose behind what he saw ; and so would any one who 
watched a ship speeding through the high seas to the 
haven with sails full-spread to the favouring wind. Such 
are the examples with which in one of his popular works 
the Stagirite illustrated the purposefulness of natural pro- 
cesses. Foremost in this connexion he places the structure 
and the activities of organic beings, including the arrange- 
ments which provide for the preservation of the species, 
such as the nest-building of birds, the performances of bees 
and ants, and so on. He is acquainted with Empedocles' 
attempt to explain the purpose-serving character of organic 
forms by the mere survival of the fit ; but he mocks the 
attempt in a manner which is not without humour. If 
these hybrid creatures which Empedocles supposed to have 
appeared spontaneously, and to have perished because of 
their unfitness, e.g. "bovine bodies with human heads," 
had ever come actually before our eyes, we should have 
regarded them just as we regard the monstrosities which 
even now occur in the animal world, namely, as devia- 
tions from an already established rule, not as phenomena 
preceding the establishment of one. 

We ourselves have no right whatever to look slightingly 
on Aristotle's teleology. The purpose-serving character of 
organic forms is still one of the problems whose solution 
we long for, but in spite of Lamarck, Wallace, and Darwin, 
have by no means yet found. The chief question that 
forces itself upon us here is this : Does the hypothesis 
of purpose in nature serve more to hinder or to help the 
progress of biological research } This question, so far as 


vvc can judge, admits of no simple and peremptory answer. 
If the beholder of a machine has rightly grasped its function 
and purpose, his eye for the details of its construction and 
working has no doubt become keener and surer. To this 
extent it is certainly just to speak of the heuristic value 
of the teleological way of looking at nature. But against 
this advantage there are to be set two disadvantages. The 
pursuit of assumed final causes may divert the researcher's 
aim from the ascertainment of immediate causes, easily 
and safely accessible to human discernment. And again, 
the work or function of an organ may be misunder- 
stood, and the erroneous teleological interpretation may 
cloud our perception of the facts themselves, may support 
or help to produce inexact observations and hasty con- 
clusions. The first of these dangers was well known to 
Aristotle, and he laboured with much care, but assuredly 
not with uniform success, for its obviation. " Zeus," he 
says somewhere, " does not send rain that the plants may 
grow, but of necessity. For the rising exhalations must 
cool ; when cooled they must become water and sink down- 
wards." It is surprising to find the mechanical explanation 
here taking the place of the teleological one. The reason 
is to be found partly in the immediately following reference 
to the damage done by excessive or unseasonable rains — 
visitations which for once preserve our philosopher from 
teleological optimism. Partly, too, the obvious character 
of these physical processes counts for something ; the teleo- 
logical interpretation usually makes its appearance in Aris- 
totle, as elsewhere, when the ordinary means of explaining 
nature deny their aid. As a principle, it is true, he does not 
hold with neglecting the Why of things while attending 
to their Wherefore. There is a passage full of meaning 
in which he describes the mechanical causes as the servants 
and instruments of the final causes. But it is one thing 
thus to acknowledge a principle and another to carry it 
out consistently in practice. Aristotle's attempt to do 
so, as can well be understood, is frequently wrecked on 
the difficulty, if not impossibility, of discerning the con- 
nexion of the proximate or mechanical causes, especially in 


biological matters. Thus, in point of fact, nature is for him 
broken up into two spheres, in one of which necessity- 
reigns, and in the other purpose. For the rest he has 
equal censure for those who assume purposes of nature 
where mere mechanical necessity is at work, and for those 
who, like the Atomists, discard altogether the question of 
the Wherefore or purpose, and who judge precisely as one 
would do who at the tapping of a dropsy should describe 
the physician's lancet, and not his desire to cure the patient, 
as the cause of the operation. Telling as this comparison 
seems, it really is anything but convincing. For while many 
human purposes, like that of the operator just spoken of, 
are plain to be seen, our endeavour to learn the purposes 
of nature is exposed to the severest deceptions, and is led 
astray by subjective interpretation of the facts. A flagrant 
example of such error may find a place here. Inexact 
observation had led Aristotle or his predecessors to assert 
that the number of sutures is greater in the human skull 
than in that of other creatures, and greater in the male 
skull than in the female. Straight on the heels of the 
malobservation comes an interpretation that blocks the 
way to its correction. Those sutures, it is suggested, 
serve to ventilate the brain, and must therefore be most 
numerous where the heart and lungs are richest in blood, 
and give the brain (fantastically conceived as a refrigerator) 
the greatest amount of work to do. 

3. There are three great works in which the Stagirite 
expatiated over all the provinces of animal life. The first 
and most extensive, the " History of Animals," treats the 
phenomena (his own expression) of animal life ; while the 
second does not, as its title, " On the Parts of Animals," 
would suggest, serve a purely anatomical purpose, but 
together with the organs of animals describes also their 
functions, and is therefore termed by its author an ex- 
position of causes. The third main work, " On the 
Generation of Animals," is intended to instruct us on 
their origin, and accordingly covers the ground of repro- 
duction and development (embryology). 

A chorus of enthusiastic voices sings the praises of 


these works. Some of the most eminent biologists, zoolo- 
gists, and philosophic naturalists of the nineteenth century 
have outbid each other in admiration of the " great 
Stagirite." Cuvier and the son of his opponent, the 
younger Geoffroy St. Hilaire, Sir John Herschel with 
his deistic tendencies, and Blainville so highly esteemed 
by the positivists, are here found in unanimous agreement. 
No less a person than Charles Darwin affirms somewhere 
that he has always looked up to Linnaeus and Cuvier as 
to gods, but that by the side of the man who wrote the 
" History of Animals" they seem to him like schoolboys. 
On the other hand, George Henry Lewes, the biographer 
of Goethe, and the author of " Seaside Studies," has 
penned some severe, perhaps not seldom unduly severe, 
criticism of Aristotle's achievement in his " Aristotle, a 
Chapter from the History of Science." But he fared like 
Balaam ; his reprimand more than once veered round 
into a hymn of exuberant praise. 

Let us contemplate, first of all, the reverse of the 
medal. "Aristotle," so Lewes exclaims in one passage, 
" knew nothing of the muscles, not even of their existence. 
He knew very little indeed of two or three nerves, and 
absolutely nothing of the nervous system. He did not 
distinguish between arteries and veins. Thus the three 
most important parts of the organism . . . were wholly 
hidden from him." We might go further. The brain, 
which had already been recognized by Alcmaeon, who 
had been followed by a great Hippocratic and Plato 
(cf. Vol. L pp. 148 and 313), as a central organ, was 
deposed by the Stagirite from that rank, and explained 
as being, like the lungs, an apparatus for cooling the 
blood ; the heart, on the other hand, was in accordance 
with old-time popular physiology restored to its position 
as the seat of consciousness. The reproductive act was 
seriously misunderstood, as there was ascribed to the 
male element merely a stimulating and quickening in- 
fluence ; while the hypothesis of spontaneous generation 
was extended to organisms of quite complex structure. 
How is the recognition of such grave defects and errors, 


which partly at least arose from the rejection of know- 
ledge already won. to be reconciled with an extrava- 
gantly high estimate of Aristotle as a biologist ? If we 
wish to give a just answer to this question, if wc wish 
within the limits of possibility to give this great man his 
full rights, to appraise his merit not too high and not 
too low, it is first of all necessary to cast a rapid glance 
over his predecessors, the means of research at his disposal, 
and the methods he employed. In this way — to state our 
verdict in advance — we shall learn to know and admire 
the unprecedented greatness of his undertaking, the 
astonishing width of his survey, his choice of valuable 
methods despite the temptations of his own dialectical 
skill, finally, certain generalizations of great if not universal 
application, and the marvellous and many-sided gifts which 
made these triumphs possible. 

4. An opinion formerly widespread and hardly as yet 
contested a quarter of a century ago, to the effect that 
Aristotle, so to speak, created zoology out of nothing, did 
our philosopher at once too much and too little honour. 
It credited him with a more than human achievement, and 
it charged him with the responsibility for countless fallacies 
and malobservations of others. It is not even to-day 
possible to draw a clean line of separation between what 
is original and what is borrowed either in his triumphs 
or in his failures. But we know at least that in none of 
the fields here concerned Aristotle was without pre- 
decessors. Our author himself seems to us to distinguish, 
here and there with some care, between what he has seen 
for himself and what he takes on the authority of others. 
Not seldom an emphatic " we have observed " contrasts 
with " it has been seen," or " it has been noticed." There 
is no lack, too, as has always been sufficiently evident, of 
appeals to specialists. For example, the Cypriote Syen- 
nesis, the Hippocratic Polybus, and Diogenes of Apollonia, 
are made use of and criticized in the section descriptive 
of the arteries, just as Leophanes (or Cleophanes), the 
putative author of the pseudo-Hippocratic treatise "On 
Superfetation," is utilized on the subject of reproduction. 


In addition to scientific specialists there also appears a 
host of " practical specialists " outside the guild of learning, 
among whom fishermen, bee-keepers, shepherds, all kinds 
of hunters, fowlers, stock-breeders, and veterinary surgeons 
receive particular mention. Frequent reference is made to 
the doctrines of the old and the new nature-philosophers, 
sometimes laudatory, more commonly the reverse ; and 
the harshness of his criticism does not spare even Plato's 
" Tim^us," In the field of descriptive zoology, the number 
of his predecessors seems smaller. It remains a question 
how far Democritus is included among them, as of his 
work in three books on the problems of animal life only 
scanty remnants are in our hands ; in any case, Aristotle 
discusses his views on animal physiology with unnsual 
frequency. Speusippus, too, from what we know of his 
book " On Similarities " could not possibly be absent from 
the list ; a Herodorus of Heraclea is once mentioned and 
censured in connexion with a special question ; and in the 
same passage reference is made to an error of which 
" many " have been guilty. Other writers, with whom 
we shall soon have to concern ourselves, had preceded 
him in the fields of classification combined with description, 
of comparative anatomy, and of embryology. 

Next to the literary and cognate aids to study come 
the available means and opportunities of independent 
observation. As early as the time of Herodotus it was 
possible to enjoy the sight of a variety of exotic beasts 
in the park of the Persian king's palace at Susa ; and in 
the Egypt of the Ptolemies even municipal zoological 
gardens were to be found in the cities. But we have no 
record of any similar institutions in Macedon and Greece. 
Still, at Athens, single specimens of rare animals were 
kept by fanciers and exhibited for pay. Indeed, there 
were even menageries in which trained lions and bears 
and so on showed off their tricks. The narratives of the 
ancients respecting the support given by Alexander to 
his tutor by consignments of animals from the Far East 
deserve little credence, if only because of the fabulous 
numbers mentioned. In any case, such gifts could only 


have been received in the last lustrum of our philosopher's 
life, while the composition of his zoological works belongs, 
certainly to an advanced, but not to quite the latest stage 
of his scientific activity. In this respect, therefore, his 
resources can hardly have exceeded those possessed by his 
contemporaries ; and the exacter knowledge (in some in- 
stances the uncommonly exact knowledge) which specialists 
find in his works, of about five hundred species of animals 
(a three-thousandth part of the species now known over 
the whole globe), is, under all the circumstances, an amazing 
result of his restless research and his devoted zeal in 
collecting. This knowledge extended from the lowest 
shell-fish, which he himself calls a " middle thing between 
plant and animal," up to man. 

5. It is not a little strange to learn that the knowledge 
which Aristotle possessed of physical man stands at a far 
lower level than that which he acquired of organisms much 
lower in the scale of life. Thus he has never seen either 
the human kidneys or the human uterus. He himself does 
not shrink from the confession that the inward parts of 
man are " the least known of all," and that such knowledge 
must be based on the examination of other forms of life — 
a foundation on which his own anatomical diagrams rested. 
Indeed, the already-mentioned absolutely false assumption 
as to the number of the cranial sutures shows us, as has 
rightly been remarked, that he never once took advantage 
of any of the many opportunities that must have presented 
themselves of carefully examining the skulls of the dead 
and comparing them with each other as well as with animal 
skulls. If, on the other hand, as we may remark in passing, 
such easily avoidable shortcomings are not to be laid at 
the door of the great encyclopaedist himself, but of the 
writers whom he consulted, we lose the right of giving him, 
rather than the authorities, the credit of the strikingly 
exact observations which are so much admired in other 
passages. Take, for example, the observation that the male 
cuttlefish sometimes inserts an arm in the female mantle 
and leaves it there — a phenomenon which even Cuvier inter- 
preted falsely, for he regarded the arm as an intestinal 


worm. In both sets of instances we shall do well to put 
the responsibility on the incomparable aciiteness of the 
senses and the ever-active curiosity of the ancient Greeks 
in general, as also on their lack of strict objective exact- 
ness and scientific training. But to return to man : what 
hindered the exhaustive knowledge of his bodily con- 
formation was that shrinking from /^j-/-;«<9r/<??/^ examina- 
tions which was first overcome by the great Alexandrine 
physicians. There was only one quarter in which this 
shrinking had no effect. The human foetus was opened 
and dismembered by Aristotle's contemporaries and by 
himself; and this branch of research, assisted as it was 
by the frequency at that time of deliberately induced 
abortion, gave students a much exacter idea of man in 
the make than of the completed product. 

The anatomist followed in the train of the butcher, the 
sacrificing priest, and the cook. Here, as elsewhere, real 
or supposed need smoothed the way for science. Animals, 
too, were prepared in an ingenious manner for purely 
external inspection ; thus they were kept without food in 
order that the course of the blood-vessels might be better 
traced in their emaciated bodies. If a dead animal was 
preferred for examination, it was killed in such cases ex- 
clusively by strangling, so that the emptying of the vessels 
by loss of blood might be avoided. When the legend exhibits 
to us Democritus surrounded by the opened bodies of 
animals (cf. Vol. I. p. 316), it brings before our eyes a 
faithful picture of what the state of knowledge at that time 
shows to have been the only form of anatomical research 
then in use. It is not open to doubt that Aristotle per- 
formed many dissections of animals ; and it must be con- 
sidered as at least highly probable that he considerably 
enlarged the horizon of contemporary research in this 
respect. If the minute examination of the lower animals 
had been no novelty, the Stagirite would hardly have felt 
any need to undertake an emphatic defence of this branch 
of research against its despisers ; he would have had no 
occasion to chastise the "childish reluctance" which ob- 
jected to the investigation of " meanly regarded animals." 


He may well have fared like the founder of English 
surgery, John Hunter (i 728-1 793), who was laughed at by 
his short-sighted colleagues for "wasting his time over 
flies and frogs." Nothing was accounted by the Stagirite 
as too mean or too remote : not the ovary of the oyster, 
nor the bladder of the tortoise, nor the posture of mat- 
ing hedgehogs. Although in this province, too, he has 
committed numerous errors of detail, his high apprecia- 
tion and his advancement, if not foundation, of the 
practice of animal-dissections, to which, according to 
Tiedemann, we owe "almost all the most important dis- 
coveries in anatomy and physiology," constitute merit of 
the highest order. 

6. We come to a question of importance both in itself 
and for the purposes of the present work — the question as 
to the temper of mind in which Aristotle minted the 
treasures of his own and others' observation and drew far- 
reaching inferences and general views from the raw material 
of facts. Here we are at once surprised by a remarkable 
contrast. In treating of the books on physics, we were 
entitled to speak of " misused dialectic." No one would 
ever think of employing such a term to characterize the 
biological books. In no part of his writings does the 
Stagirite stand at so great a distance from the author of 
the " Topics " as in the works which now occupy us. Loose, 
merely dialectical proofs are most decisively repudiated. 
The deduction of conclusions from the " specific principles " 
peculiar to the object of study is inculcated repeatedly and 
with the greatest emphasis. " Too far-fetched explanations " 
are severely condemned. At the same time, to be sure, 
the adroit dialectician cannot always deny himself the 
pleasure of inventing ingenious pseudo-demonstrations. 
But he does not here, as so often elsewhere, set them in 
the van of his argument to be followed by weightier and 
more cogent reasons ; on the contrary, he expressly desig- 
nates them as " empty " or " null," and draws the most 
definite possible distinction between such sportive exercise 
of the mind and the kind of proof which he judges truly 


It is so in respect of a question which, from the time of 
Democritus onwards had formed the theme of much dis- 
cussion, that as to the sterility of mules. He begins by 
an attempt to prove it impossible that these animals should 
breed. For what kind of young could they have ? From 
the union of two animals of unlike species there is produced 
offspring different from both, while from that of individuals 
of the same species like offspring is derived. Neither of 
these suppositions can be admitted here. The young 
cannot be different, because the male and female belong 
to the same species, as being both mules ; but just as little 
can such a union produce like offspring, because both 
parents, as mixtures of horse and ass, are themselves 
different. It is plain enough that the words implying like- 
ness and unlikeness of species are not used in the same 
sense in the two parts of the argument ; in the first case, 
the reference is to the nature of the two animals them- 
selves, and in the second to their origin. In point of fact, 
Aristotle adduces the argument only to condemn it, and 
that as being " too general and therefore vain ; " as being 
a mere show argument, which, for the rest, proves too much, 
the unfruitfulness of all bastards without exception. 

Here, no less than elsewhere, he falls a victim to the 
fever of universal explanation. The biological works are 
crammed with desperate attempts at explanation which 
have their origin in deficient knowledge and in unsound, 
sometimes we might say superficial, interpretations of the 
phenomena. That wise reserve which abstains from the 
explanation of enigmatic processes and relegates them to 
a future better prepared for the task (cf. p. 60) is the 
rarest of exceptions. The greatest harm is done by his 
leaning to over-simple explanations, such as make speci- 
fically biological phenomena depend immediately upon 
merely physical causes. We might almost speak here of 
premature attempts to establish the " unity of natural 
forces " — a tendency towards which the Atomists were 
impelled by the exclusively mechanical presuppositions of 
their doctrine, while even our philosopher, with his greater 
endowment of biological insight, was led in the same 


direction by defective knowledge of the higher regions 
of organic life, more especially by his total ignorance of 
the functions of brain and nerves. An instance of this 
occurs when he proposes to deduce the palpitation caused 
by fear from a cooling of the upper part of the body 
brought about by emotion, and a consequent sinking and 
contraction of the vital heat, an occasional result of which 
is the extinction of that heat and the death of the 
frightened animal. Another instance is his theory that 
the exceptional size of some animals' hearts is the cause 
of their shyness and timidity — a theory based on the 
ground that the warmth of the heart when spread over 
a large space has less effect than if it were compressed 
into less room, much as the same fire that warms a little 
chamber leaves a large hall cold. Other examples are 
supplied by the fantastic attempt to explain the fair hair 
of the Sarmatians and the rough wool of the Sarmatian 
sheep as equally due to northern cold. Again, the breaking 
of a boy's voice and the shrill tones of a eunuch are 
deduced from fundamentally false anatomical premisses ; 
baldness is ascribed to the coolness of the brain, etc., etc. 
Georges Pouchet, the best exponent of the Aristotelian 
biology, might well exclaim, in view of such aberrations, 
*' Lucky philosophy to be able to reconcile all contra- 
dictions so well and to give a reason for everything ! " 
But by the side of such expressions of justified impatience 
the following consideration may also perhaps find a place. 
This irritating intrusiveness of Aristotle's passion for 
explanation may well have been an indispensable servant 
of his polymathy. The mind of the all-embracing encyclo- 
paedist could hardly have preserved in security the same 
immense store of knowledge if it had remained for the 
most part a heap of unconnected data and problems. His 
essays in explanation, premature and presumptuous as 
many of them were, wove a net whose meshes were 
adapted to hold the vast unwieldy mass together and 
save it from falling to pieces. 

7. Our philosopher's wealth of resource — that at once 
so valuable and so fatal dowry — assumed, as we see, very 


different forms at different phases of his activity ; it wears 
one shape in his physical, and another in his biological 
works. In the latter he is as far removed as possible from 
the empty apriorism of the former. We are inclined to 
imagine a progressive maturity, a clarification of his mind 
accomplished in the lapse of time. And, in point of fact, 
the three main works treating the subjects of zoology, 
anatomy and physiology, and embryology, imply the 
previous composition not only of the four chief physical 
works, but also of the books " On the Soul." There is, 
however, a great deal that restrains us from making the 
progress of years alone responsible for this change in 
method. What we have in mind is not so much the part 
played by dialectical sham-proofs in the " Rhetoric," a 
work of still later date, whose subject and purpose connect 
it closely with the much earlier "Topics," as the heap- 
ing up of sound and unsound proofs that occurs in the 
" Poetics," a work written not long before the " Rhetoric." 
For example, the superiority of tragic over epic poetry is 
there maintained with an astonishing muster of looser and 
stricter arguments mixed together. To the same category 
belong those violent adjustments by which the whole of 
the virtues, including truthfulness and justice, are forced 
into the framework of the "mean." The difference of 
subject may have meant still more than the difference 
of age. In physics, a lack of at once assured and fruitful 
fundamental knowledge, a lack for which no doubt (as 
in his rejection of the Democritean theory of displacement) 
he was sometimes himself to blame, threw him into the 
arms of empty thought-constructions like his doctrine of 
elements (cf. pp. 63, 64). But in the biological field a count- 
less abundance of valuable facts were at his command. 
Here, we might say, he is as much at home in the concrete 
as there he was in the abstract. The excessive mobility 
and adaptability of his mind drives him, not now to 
unsubstantial thought-building, but rather to a premature 
acceptance of supposed connexions in matters of fact. 
I'Vom these excrescences of the quest for causes one 
branch alone of biology remains fully free. It is that 


branch in which the mind of the investigator must be 
content with observation and comparison, where his whole 
task consists of arrangement, classification, the ascertain- 
ment of similarities and of widely comprehensive laws of 
coexistence. It is here that Aristotle — so much may be 
confidently maintained — did his best work and showed his 
full mastery as an investigator of nature. 




aristotle as a.\ investigator of nature. 

(Continuation: the Systematist, the Comparative 
Anatomist and Physiologist.) 

I. To classify is to arrange by means of generalizations 
and at the same time to provide a graduated scheme of 
such generalizations. Out of the abundance of data in 
the nature of facts (phenomena, processes, things) the 
mind selects elements connected by common features, and 
with them constructs a general type. With these general 
types the same procedure is continued, each new set of 
ideas is subordinated to another set, until the narrowing 
pyramid finally ends in a point — one or several generic 
notions of the highest order. In the case with which 
we are concerned, such generic notions are those of plant 
or animal, of organic being, or even of entity in general. 
Though this construction serves the ends of scientific per- 
spective, it is by no means originally a product of the 
scientific sense or even of conscious effort. The truth 
rather is that in its first stages the process goes on, as 
we may say, automatically. What happens is not so much 
that the common element is recognized in different things, 
but that the differences are overlooked, neglected, or 
forgotten. It is so that the Polynesian proceeds at the 
present day ; if a new quadruped is imported into his 
country, he assimilates it to the only quadruped he knows, 
calls it by the same name, and by the transference acquires 
the general notion of quadruped. The strong impression 
made on a child by the barking of the family dog leads 
him to regard all other animals that bark, though the 


differences between them may be no less than that between 
a lapdog and a greyhound, as belonging together, and to 
greet their appearance by an imitative bark. In such 
processes we may see the beginnings of, or at any rate 
the first steps towards, the formation of classes. At a 
later stage it is principally the relation to human purposes 
that supplements the most striking differences of size, 
form, and habitat as a basis of classification. We speak 
of wild and tame, of useful and noxious animals, of 
domestic animals and game, of large and small stock, 
of flying and creeping creatures, of sea-monsters, with 
many other like distinctions. 

Occasionally superstition has led to a more careful 
separation of animal groups, such as is found in the 
dietary prohibitions of the Old Testament. We refer to 
the recognition of the class of ruminants, and their partial 
identification with the group of cloven-hoofed quadrupeds 
— an isolated gleam of illumination, since a little further 
on such widely different species as the lizard and the mole 
are coupled together, 

2. We are as yet unacquainted with the first beginnings 
among the Greeks of a purely scientific division of animals, 
a division, that is, which disregards all points of view 
foreign to the subject itself, and which accurately emphasizes 
the essential features. That in this field, too, Aristotle did 
not lack predecessors might be conjectured simply in view 
of the restless scientific activity of that age. Some of the 
names given by Aristotle to the leading groups (outside 
universally known terms like "fish" and "bird") are found 
in earlier writers, namely, the great physician Diodes, 
known as the " Second Hippocrates," and also Speusippus. 
Probably Democritus had already spoken of the great 
class of " blood-possessing " animals, and others again had 
alluded to the sub-group of the " single-hoofed." At the 
end of Plato's " Timseus " some principal members of the 
animal series are mentioned in connexion with that theory 
of descent which so well deserves the name. A searching 
analysis of the second of the pseudo-Hippocratic books 
'' On Diet " has also enabled a contemporary of ours to 


treat of a " Coan " system of animals, which in its main 
features agrees with that of Aristotle. 

It is quite possible that Aristotle was not himself the 
first to define any single one of the chief animal-groups 
which occur in his writings. Can we acknowledge this 
possibility and yet retain a right to commemorate him 
as a pioneer who rendered the most eminent service to 
this branch of knowledge .-* Most certainly we can ; for, 
with the contemporary just alluded to, we may regard the 
essential merit of his achievement as lying not so much 
" in the special arrangement of the material " as " rather 
in the development of the logical principles of classifica- 
tion." But not in this last alone. For all specialists are 
unanimous in declaring that systematic zoology itself did 
not progress a single step between Aristotle and Linnaeus 
(1707-1778). And even the author of the " Systema 
Naturae " stood in several matters to the rear of Aristotle ; 
thus in ten out of the twelve editions which he personally 
prepared he numbered the whales among the fishes, while 
Aristotle placed them among the " viviparous " animals, 
as he called them — that is, the mammalia. 

3. A first step in this exhibition of the true principles 
of systematization is the Stagirite's decisive rejection of 
dichotomy. This mode of procedure, which undertakes 
to build up a classification by repeated division into two, 
was the earliest and most obvious method of didactic 
partition. On such lines were the attempts at classification 
in Plato's " Sophist." But increasing maturity of thought 
soon led the author of that work, as we learn from the 
'' Statesman " and the " Philebus," to discover that this 
principle of division does not admit of anything like 
universal application. Such could not be the case — we 
may add in explanation — unless the upper division always 
fell into no more than two lower divisions, related to each 
other as contrary opposites, much like white and black. 
But since black may be also contrasted with blue, green, 
red, etc., the twofold division can be maintained erect in 
such only by balancing black against not-black, which 
latter must be afterwards broken up into its sub-varieties. 


It is obvious from this example that the contradictory 
antithesis provides a merely artificial and altogether un- 
fruitful principle of division. Aristotle, who seems to have 
been preceded in this by Speusippus, discussed the matter 
thoroughly, with unmistakable allusion to the attempts at 
classification in the " Sophist," and came to the conclusion 
that dichotomy is untenable as an exclusive principle of 
division, and that its employment is " partly impossible, 
partly nugatory." 

His first and chief objection is the sterility of negation 
as a ground of division. The footless, the wingless, and so 
on, give no handle to further division ; there are no sub- 
varieties of the merely negative. To this first disadvantage 
a second is added whenever the dichotomy separates things 
closely connected with each other, as happens not only in 
the case of the subdivisions of a common genus, but also 
in that of the members of one and the same kind or species. 
This drawback attends the dichotomy " land-animals and 
water-animals," or the antithesis of " winged and wingless." 
In the first case aquatic birds, for example, are separated 
from their near relations, the land-birds ; the first are thrown 
into a class along with the fishes, the second with land- 
mammals and reptiles. But the opposition of winged and 
wingless even tears apart creatures belonging to the same 
species ; it parts the winged ants that possess sex from the 
wingless neuters, the winged male glow-worm from the 
wingless female. 

Thus Aristotle was led, without noticing it, to discover 
and to proclaim with emphasis those principles of natural 
division which in our century have won their final victory. 
Lewes, indeed, credited the Stagirite with no more than 
a "dim perception of the natural method." But he might 
have learnt better from the thorough treatment of the sub- 
ject by Jurgen Bona Meyer in his " Zoology of Aristotle." 
Over and over again Aristotle points out that whatever 
distinguishing marks we divide by, we should never use 
one alone, but always a number of them. And among these 
marks those are placed in the second rank which rest upon 
"functions" or "performances," conditioned as these so 


often are by the habitat of animals and their mode of life. 
The precedence is thus transferred from the physiological 
to the anatomical characters ; original or structural features 
are preferred to those depending on adaptation. " Animals 
differing in species are distinguished in most of their parts 
(their presence or absence, their position and arrangement), 
. . . groups (on the other hand) whose parts show only 
differences of degree are combined into a common group." 
Without dreaming of the theory of descent, Aristotle did 
preliminary work towards it by choosing for his guiding- 
lines in the systematization of animals those characters 
which have the greatest permanence and therefore the 
greatest probative force for family relationship. In this 
he resembles Cuvier ; and the praise given to this latter, 
e.g. by Louis Agassiz in his " Essay on Classification," is 
by others bestowed in almost the same terms on Aristotle. 
The "vertebrates" of Cuvier correspond precisely to the 
Stagirite's " blood-animals," with their subdivisions : the 
mammalia (called by him "viviparous"), the birds, the 
reptiles and amphibia (four-footed or footless egg-layers), 
and fishes. He was not here guided by the possession of 
this one attribute alone ; but the presence or absence of 
blood was for him the accompaniment and index of a large 
number of other important qualities. The other " great 
class " of bloodless animals he divided into soft animals 
(our cephalopods), soft shell-fish (our Crustacea), shell- 
skinned (mussels and snails), and insects, including spiders 
and worms — the least sharply defined of all the classes, 

Man is sometimes considered as forming an order by 
himself, sometimes reckoned in the first of the above-named 
divisions of the " blood-animals," The reason why this 
last is not the regular procedure is to be found in the 
defective nomenclature, which sometimes, but not invari- 
ably, adds to the term " viviparous " the name of " quad- 
ruped ; " for Aristotle was by no means fanatically exact 
in his designations. For example, while he usually sub- 
ordinates "species" to "genus," there yet occur passages 
in which the two terms are used without distinction. The 
strict thinker is a somewhat lax author. His favourite 


literary garb is a comfortable deshabille. He uses the 
same words, without always warning the reader, now in a 
narrower, now in a wider, and again in an altogether 
different sense ; so in the " Poetics " he uses the word 
" metres " in most cases for the poetical rhythms them- 
selves, but also occasionally to denote the parts of the 
drama written in verse but not meant to be sung. It is 
thus intelligible that his animal-system also fails to exhibit 
a strictly articulated structure throughout, and that the 
inclusion of the lower in the higher divisions has often to 
be inferred from casual and not always consistent indica- 
tions. It is obvious, too, that he desired to make no 
more than a very limited use of palpable innovations in 
language ; hence the frequent remark that such and such 
animals do, in fact, form a group, but that the group has 
no name. 

4. Precisely this namelessness of many important 
groups of animals speaks for the view that in at least the 
greater part of these cases Aristotle stands on his own legs 
and does not simply make free with the inheritance left 
him by some predecessor. Still more definite evidence 
to the same purpose is given by the particular nature of 
his labours in classification, which are distinguished by 
two features : the sense for similarity, for '' relationship of 
form " — this is his own highly characteristic expression — 
and an uncommonly keen eye for what has been called the 
correlation of parts. That sense for identity, the founda- 
tion of the Stagirite's general mastery of morphology, 
forms the root of his knowledge of comparative anatomy, 
concerning which we shall have more to say later on. In 
isolated passages it also gives him an occasion for genetic 
considerations, which beat against the barriers imposed by 
the exclusive observation of coexistences. " A variation " — 
so runs an extremely noteworthy passage — " which affects 
a small organ in an animal can be clearly seen to produce 
a great change in the qualities of the whole body." An 
experimental verification, as we may call it, of this assertion 
is supplied by the case of a castrated animal, in which the 
removal of " a small organ " has for its consequence a 


change " to the female nature." We here light upon a 
thought which it was not his fortune to pursue to its ulti- 
mate goal, the transmutation of species, a thought, there- 
fore, of which he makes no really serious use. In spite of 
appearances to the contrary, he does not really go even 
as far as Anaximander, who brought land and water 
animals into a relation of kinship (cf. Vol. I. p. 54). He 
has a much deeper perception of the reciprocal dependence 
of the marks united in one and the same group of animals, 
as in the case of the plurality of stomachs and the im- 
perfectly developed dental system of the ruminants — a 
case, to be sure, in which the teleological connexion which 
he clearly detected lay on the surface. But " his highly- 
developed sense for organic correlations" (to use Georges 
Pouchet's expression) permits him to discover much more 
deeply hidden connexions, as that between the nature of 
eggs and the nature of the animal that lays them, on which 
occasion he cannot help putting birds and reptiles close 
together, in agreement with modern zoology. Here, too, 
we should take an instance of knowledge which aroused 
Cuvier's admiration, the knowledge that all two-horned 
beasts are double-hoofed, but not conversely, or that no 
bird with spurs has curved claws, and conversely. 

5. A highly important part of this general principle is 
the rule, rediscovered by Etienne Geoffroy St. Hilaire and 
Goethe, and named by them " the balance of organs." 
Aristotle formulates this law of compensation as follows : 
" What Nature takes from one part she everywhere gives 
to another. . . , She cannot go to the same expense on 
two sides. . . . She cannot possibly use the same material 
in many places at the same time." With these one may 
at once compare the cognate expressions of Goethe : " If 
the formative 7iisus tends to expend more under one head, 
there is no absolute hindrance, but it is at once compelled 
to leave something missing under another head ; thus 
Nature can never run into debt or go bankrupt." Examples 
of this " housekeeper-like economy in giving and taking " 
(Goethe) are supplied, for Aristotle, by, among other things, 
those species of crabs which have fewer pincers but more 


feet than other kinds ; similarly by birds of heavy flight, in 
which the material otherwise used on the wings has been 
applied to the thickening of the skin. He finds another 
manifestation of the same parsimony in the fact that 
Nature "adapts the bodily parts common to all animals 
to many different uses by modifying their form ; " thus 
the mouth serves all for the reception of food, most for 
breathing, many for fighting, some again for communi- 
cation, and man for speech. But far as Nature is from 
prodigality, she yet does not fall into the opposite fault 
of " stingy provision " or niggardliness. This last thought 
is developed by the Stagirite in a manner that connects 
his biological and his sociological theories by a close and 
very interesting bond. 

" Wherever it is possible " — so we read in the work 
" On the Parts of Animals " — " to use two things for two 
purposes. . . . Nature is not accustomed to work like the 
metal-worker, who, for the sake of cheapness, makes a spit 
that will also serve as a candlestick." And again, in the 
" Politics," the use of women for slave-work, a common 
thing among the barbarians, is opposed by the following- 
argument : " Nature makes nothing penuriously, as the 
cutler makes the Delphic knife " — probably a bread-knife 
which the pilgrim could also use as a weapon on his 
journey — " but for every end she appoints a special means. 
For every instrument can only then achieve its greatest 
perfection when it is used not for many services but for 
one alone." And in pointing out exceptions to the rule 
he makes in both departments of study the same reference 
to occasional limitation of means, and even employs the 
same illustrative comparison. Those authorities which in 
a very small state are called upon to perform a variety of 
functions are compared with just those " spit-candlesticks " 
that we have been mentioning. Nor is it to be wondered 
at, we may remark in passing, that a leading thought of 
Plato's " Republic," the division of labour and the speciali- 
zation of functions, should have made a deep impression 
on Plato's pupil, and should therefore recur on a variety 
of quite different occasions. 


6. We reach here a new and still more important point 
of view. We should not have spoken above of exceptions 
so much as of lower stages of perfection in the realm of 
organisms. For progressive specialization of activities, 
and still more of their instruments, is only another ex- 
pression for the increased complication of structure and 
the enhanced inner wealth of living beings. This " more 
multiform and more richly endowed" structure is also 
the condition of the greater " unity " of an organism. 
Thus it is set down to the credit of the "best-made" 
animals that they cannot be cloven or mutilated and still 
survive like many species of lower grade, an individual 
of which " rather resembles a complex of individuals than 
a single one." Thus— to use the language of a con- 
temporary highly competent in this subject — we arrive 
at that "gradation of all living beings which forms the 
foundation " as of the Aristotelian, so " of our modern 
classification " or systematization. 

At this point a false path opens which not all have 
been able to avoid. The Aristotelian system of graded 
types has been half involuntarily identified with a suc- 
cession in time ; and the Stagirite has been credited with 
a theory of development and descent totally foreign to 
him. Necessary as the warning is, however, against 
entrance upon this false path and the confusion of either 
Aristotle's or Goethe's theory of types and grades with 
Spencer's theory of evolution or Lamarck's and Darwin's 
theories of descent, the doctrines named are undeniably 
connected by inner ties of kinship. Moreover, it was 
necessary to learn how to distinguish lower from higher 
organisms before the thought could possibly arise that the 
latter had followed or had actually proceeded from the 
former ; in short, that the morphological series coincides 
with the chronological or, indeed, with the genealogical 
series. But for Aristotle — and this is a truth to be kept 
carefully in sight — the organic world contained merely a 
juxtaposition of higher and lower, not a succession, and 
still less a derivation of the one from the other. 

There is nothing to contradict what has just been said 


in the fact that the form of expression, with our philosopher 
as with any other thinker and author, fails to hold these 
two fundamentally distinct thoughts strictly apart It lies 
in the very nature of human thought and speech to repro- 
duce and image forth connexions and relations by means 
of successions and processes, rest by means of motion. 
It is so in the case of geometrical figures, that is, spatial 
coexistences, which the mind prefers to make more readily 
intelligible by purely genetic constructions (cf. Vol. III. 
p. 210). If, then, the question in hand is entirely one of 
ranks or gradations in a series, it is difficult to keep the 
picture of progress, growth, increase, or conversely of 
regress and diminution, entirely at a distance. Aristotle's 
use of such expressions might, in some instances, lead 
even to the altogether erroneous impression that he had 
been inclined, at a certain stage of his mental develop- 
ment, towards the theory propounded in Plato's " Timaeus " 
of a deterioration or degeneration of organic beings. In 
truth all idea of an actual evolution, whether of upward 
or downward tendency, is entirely absent from his mind. 
It is only within the circle of human civilization that he 
knows anything of real progress, of development actually 
accomplished, and that only to be in the end annihilated 
by catastrophes and brought back to the starting-point. 

7. The scale of ranks of which we have been speaking 
extends beyond the animal world, and, in fact, embraces 
the totality of earthly things, beginning with the inanimate 
world and ending in man as the summit. Nothing in the 
exposition of this idea is so worthy of notice as the strong 
emphasis laid on continuity, and the conviction that quali- 
tative differences even of the most striking kind rest in 
the last resort on quantitative differences or dififerences 
of degree. We are reminded of Xenophanes (cf. Vol. I. 
p. 162) and his doctrine of minute processes producing 
great total effects by their gradual summation. The 
assumption of continuity is the same in Aristotle, although 
it is only in a metaphorical sense that he speaks of progress 
or transition in passages like the following : " From inani- 
mate things Nature passes on to animals so gradually that 


the continuity of the change blurs the boundaries and 
often leaves us in doubt how to class the intermediate 
links. First comes the realm of plants, within which the 
same variation by degrees is exhibited, but which as a 
whole seems almost endowed with soul in comparison with 
the rest of the physical world, but void of soul as compared 
with animals. The transition from plants to animals is 
again continuous." A reference is here made to those 
middle beings which entirely lack the power of spontaneous 
movement characteristic of the animal world, and which 
show dim, if any, traces of sensation. Shell-fish, sea- 
anemones, and especially sponges, are named in this 
connexion. "After these comes a gradual succession of 
beings, each with more life and movement than the last." 
The case is the same with the functions of living beings ; 
thus to the tasks of self-preservation and reproduction 
common to plants and animals, there is added the rearing 
of the young, which process again exhibits higher and 
lower stages according to its duration and the degree of 
" socialization." But even in regard to mental and moral 
qualities the relevant passages in the biological works 
recognize little more than differences of degree between 
animals and man. This relationship is most clearly dis- 
cernible in the comparison of children with animals ; for in 
the former only a " kind of trace or germ " is to be found 
of the qualities displayed at maturity, and "the child-soul 
is as good as indistinguishable from the animal-soul." 

8. The Aristotelian doctrine of what we now call the 
'' natural series " has been censured as containing several 
contradictions, or, at least, as lacking in systematic exact- 
ness. The accusation seems to us unfounded. It is not 
Nature's exponent but Nature herself which in this case 
displays a want of strictness, perhaps one might say of 
pedantic consistency. The true state of the case may 
perhaps be best brought before the mind by such an illus- 
tration as the following. The world of organisms is like 
a rising succession of terraces, the different levels of which 
are thickly planted with trees. But these trees have not 
everywhere the same power of growth. It may happen. 


accordingly, that individual branches shoot higher than 
their fellows, and perhaps even tower above the topmost 
foliage of trees rooted far higher up. Thus the point 
of view which Aristotle brought out with so sure a touch 
certainly does present us with a graduated series ; but its 
scheme does not include every detail, every quality that 
characterizes every group of living beings. The insects, 
for example, as members of the " bloodless," or (as we have 
called it since Cuvier's time) the invertebrate class, certainly 
stand lower on the whole in intellectual development than 
the blood-animals, or vertebrates. But that does not pre- 
vent certain families of insects, the bees and ants, from 
being superior in intelligence to many members of the 
vertebrate class. Aristotle was entitled, even bound, to 
notice these anomalies ; and if any blame at all attaches 
to his recognition of them, it can only relate to his 
tendency towards referring the facts before him to in- 
sufficient causes. It is not a defect but an excess of the 
spirit of system that we have to reproach him with, an 
excess which now and then even clouded and prejudiced 
his apprehension of the facts. He was right, for example, 
in holding the division into two sexes to be a characteristic 
of the higher organic forms, an instance of that specializa- 
tion of functions which he understands so well, but which 
he here supposes — ungallantly enough — to be reinforced 
by Nature's effort to separate the higher from the lower, 
the form, as it were, from the matter. It is not without 
justification that he uses this principle as a kind of pre- 
sumptive evidence against the self-fertilization of fishes, 
which many had affirmed, since sexual reproduction had 
been already sufficiently established in the case of many 
lower animals of the bloodless, or invertebrate class. But 
the charge of ignorance made against the defender of this 
error recoils upon the accuser when, on the ground of 
the same presumption, he maintains that throughout the 
vegetable kingdom every individual is two-sexed. thus 
lagging behind the common Greek opinion as embodied, 
for example, in the expression " male palm." The division 
of the sexes in the date-palm at least had, in fact, been 


known even to the ancient Babylonians, just as it is now 
to every Arabian child. 

9. False generalizations of the above kind, or, more 
correctly, the confusion of mere tendencies with universally 
valid laws, can naturally be encountered not unfrequently 
in these products of an early stage of research. Occasion- 
ally a generalization, which thus overshoots the mark, 
occurs in connexion with a problem which the Stagirite 
has stated with correctness and characteristic acumen, but 
the true solution of which was placed beyond his reach by 
unavoidable gaps in his knowledge of the facts. Take, for 
example, the theory that the air taken in, in breathing, 
serves to maintain the vital heat within the body. This 
wonderfully apt guess at the true state of things is opposed, 
in the work " On Respiration," chiefly on the ground that, 
if the hypothesis were true, a product of combustion would 
be formed, and would be obliged to leave the lungs by 
the same passages by which the exciter of combustion had 
entered them. That this is the actual fact could not possibly 
be known to Aristotle, to whom oxygen, the exciter of 
combustion, and carbonic dioxide, its product, were equally 
unknown. But he overdid things when he rejected a priori 
an hypothesis which exactly corresponds to the reality, with 
an appeal to the supposed universal experience that the 
reception of nutritive material and the ejection of its residue 
never take place by the same channel. 

Although here and elsewhere biological generalizations, 
and the method of comparison by which they are governed, 
have led Aristotle astray, this method nevertheless remains 
the foundation of his researches in physiology and anatomy, 
and at the same time of his most remarkable successes. 
Comparative biology, in particular comparative anatomy, 
provides one of his least-contested titles to glory. In this 
field he left his predecessors^ — for predecessors he certainly 
had — far in the rear. Among them we should give first 
mention to the genius who produced the work " On the 
Joints," contained in the Hippocratic collection. This 
writer, a man raised a heaven's breadth above all charla- 
tanism, noble in temper and indefatigable in research {c^. 


Vol. I, pp. 314, 315), could not, without the most thorough 
and comprehensive preparatory study, have written down 
such sentences as those in which he compared the abdo- 
men of man with " that of all other animals," or affirmed 
the human ribs to be " the most curved of all." 

10. After anatomical come physiological generaliza- 
tions, which also were no novelty in principle. We recall 
the discussion of breathing by Empedocles and Plato, the 
theories of nutrition and growth propounded by the Hippo- 
cratics and Democritus, together with AlcmJEon's attempt 
to discover a general cause for the death of organisms. In 
point of systematic fulness, it is true, none of the earlier 
writers came near him. 

There is, to begin with, no little significance in the fact 
that the word " organic," in its modern and specific sense, 
makes its first appearance in Aristotle. Thus he calls the 
'^vXr\, or soul, " the first entelechy of an organic physical 
body." He holds that whatever is capable of or destined 
for life must, as a fundamental condition, possess organs, of 
which the plant has few, the animal many, and the more 
the greater its perfection. These organs he distinguishes, 
as being composed of " unlike parts," from the structures 
composed of " like parts " which make up the organic 
body ; it is a distinction precisely corresponding to that 
made by modern science between organs and tissues. The 
homogeneous components are discriminated by their quali- 
ties, their hardness or softness, moistness or dryness, and 
so on ; the heterogeneous by their function, their operation 
and performance. In the treatment of these subjects 
we note the workings of a strongly-marked sense for 
similarity and sameness of kind, which ranks high, if not 
highest, among the virtues of the scientific investigator. 
As an example of a tissue, he comprehends under a single 
common notion, citing with approval a line of li^mpedocles 
bearing on the subject, such things as hairs, feathers, the 
hedgehog's spines, and — here, to be sure, no longer borne 
out by modern science — the scales of fishes and reptiles. 
Similarly, in the department of organs, he associates 
together the human arm, the fore legs of quadrupeds, and 


the wings of birds ; while the human hand is paralleled 
with the crab's pincers and the elephant's trunk. The last- 
named, indeed, is almost too closely fitted by the charac- 
terization which Aristotle gives of the human hand. The 
devotee of teleological thought, who regarded this "one 
instrument in place of many" as given to the "living being 
capable of most kinds of skill " for the sake of this skilful- 
ness — in opposition to Anaxagoras, who had made the 
intellectual precedence of man the result of his possession 
of hands — ought properly to have answered the question 
as to a similar purpose of the elephant's trunk in much less 
pretentious language. 

It is true that Aristotle did not advance to the dis- 
tinction between mere analogy and strict homology resting 
on essential similarity of interior structure. His faith in 
what has been called " functional unity " in the organic 
realm continually leads him to seek equivalents to the 
tissues, organs, and functions of one class of animals in 
all the others. To the inner framework of bones he 
compares the outer shell of the testaceous animals ; to 
the blood of the animals which possess it corresponds the 
nutritive fluid of the bloodless class ; even the heart and 
the brain are matched by analogous structures. A remark- 
able instance is furnished by the assertion, confirmed by 
modern research, of the exceptionless universality of urine- 
like excretions, which Aristotle detects even where the 
outward appearances are so different as they are in the 
case of birds and snakes. Naturally enough, right views 
are here often mixed with errors. Sometimes the two 
are found in immediate neighbourhood, as when gills are 
recognized as equivalent to lungs, but not (we have noticed 
this already, see p. 6i) as instruments of respiration. The 
link between gills and lungs is for Aristotle the common 
task which he mistakenly assigns to them of cooling the 
blood, in the one case by means of air, and in the other 
by means of water. 

This analogism takes its boldest flight in the passage 
where the Stagirite brings into prominence the likeness 
and at the same time the difference between animals and 


plants by a memorable figure. He here utilizes Plato's 
theory of degeneration, and supposes an animal to become 
a plant by retrograde modifications ; its generative organs 
move upwards, its head and mouth downwards, and the 
latter finally becomes a root, drawing nourishment from the 
earth. In this way is reached the last stage of this reversed 
development, the governing fact of which is a decrease of 
vital warmth. For Aristotle did not, as we do, draw a 
strict distinction between warm-blooded and cold-blooded 
animals ; but he fancied he could trace a more and less 
of warmth throughout the animal series, in which warmth 
by its physical operation expanded the animal body, 
erected it, and increased its mobility, while cold exercised 
a dwarfing effect. Here we have a generalization, based 
on one-sided physical considerations, which clearly over- 
shoots the mark, and which, moreover, was not regarded 
by its author as free from exceptions. Its foundation 
probably lay in the perception that warm-blooded animals 
are the most perfect, and the bloodless animals on the 
whole, " all but quite a few," smaller than the animals 
with blood. 

But while the numerous threads of analogy running 
through all stages and classes of organic beings thus apply 
to the means which serve the performance of like tasks, 
a residue is left over for which such connecting purposes 
are no longer demonstrable. When faced by such whims 
of Nature as the nipples of male mammalia, we speak of 
rudimentary or evanescent organs, anomalies to which the 
key must be sought in the theory of descent. Aristotle, to 
whom this resource was denied, speaks in such cases (just 
as Schopenhauer did so much later) of parts which are 
only present "by way of indication," as if the formative 
spirit of Nature were unwilling entirely to dispense with 
an element in its design which has often proved service- 
able even in those cases where it answers no purpose. 

II. Some leading points of Aristotle's physiology we 
have already been obliged to touch on ; a summary account 
of his teaching in this department will bring once more 
before our eyes the weakness of his investigation of causes. 



Food must be mixed in order that the parts of the 
body, composed as they are of all elements, may be enabled 
to replace their loss of substance at every point. The 
reception of nourishment is followed by its transformation, 
its digestion or elaboration, which Aristotle is not the only 
one to describe as a "cooking." On the contrary, the 
term is a piece of primitive popular physiology. The 
ripening of fruit under the influence of the sun's heat; 
the preparation of the ripened fruit or other food at the 
domestic hearth ; lastly, its further softening or dissolution 
within the warm animal body, — here are three phenomena 
which the Greeks, like other peoples, had from the first 
been inclined to regard as three stages of essentially one 
and the same process. Indeed, the same word {Trtipuj, 
preserved in our "pepsin," "dyspepsia," etc.) denotes cook- 
ing in the proper sense just as much as digestion ; while 
the nearly-related Trewaivio is applied to the first of these 
stages, the ripening of the fruit. The Latin coq?w is used 
in the full compass of the three meanings. It is a little 
different with the German koc/ien, "to cook," the extended 
use of which is found only in poetical or technical language. 
Thus fruit ripened by the Arabian sun is spoken of by 
Schiller, in his " Spaziergang," as " that which Arabia cooks," 
and a digestive trouble of Martin Opitz is specified by the 
statement that "his stomach soon ceases to cook." The 
more backward physiologists of even the nineteenth 
century still spoke of digestion as a cooking ; for example, 
take a passage in Hegel's " Encyclopaedia." That which 
is here peculiar to our philosopher seems to be only the 
following. In this cooking, or transformation by animal 
heat of the crude and ignoble into the refined and per- 
fected, he believes himself able to detect different grada- 
tions. Thus phlegm or mucus seems to him the product 
of a first or provisional cooking ; on the other hand, of all 
the nutrient fluids, it is the blood which is produced by the 
last definitive stage of the process. 

The products of incomplete cooking and the residues 
left over at each stage of the process form, in contrast with 
the blood, the means of building up and keeping in repair the 


less noble portions of the body. For each of the nutrient 
fluids reaches the part which needs it : the blood, as the 
noblest of the fluids, goes to the noblest of the tissues — a 
title which is awarded to the " flesh and the substance of 
the other instruments of sense." In regard to these matters 
the body is compared to a household in which the best 
food is given to the free inmates, the inferior food and the 
leavings of the best to the servants, while the least valuable 
part goes to the domestic animals. The blood, of whose 
circulation Aristotle knows nothing, is prepared in the 
heart, which he names " the source of warmth and of sensa- 
tion," the "hearth," and, because of its sheltered position, 
" the acropolis of the body." From it as centre the blood 
flows to all parts in ever finer and finer division, much 
as in a well-tended garden a similar purpose is served 
by "watercourses starting from one head and spring, but 
parted into a continually increasing number of channels." 

Aristotle, of course, could not have given the highest 
rank in the organism to the flesh if he had not been 
unacquainted with the nerves and their functions as well 
as with those of the brain. Concerning this ignorance, 
there can be no doubt : we have already alluded to it 
several times (cf. pp. 57 and 143) : the only question that 
remains is whether he simply lumped the nerves and the 
sinews together (in accordance with the root meaning of 
the word, as it survives, e.g. in nerviis rerum), or whether 
he distinguished some of the former from the latter. 
This ignorance of the nerves is associated with a similar 
ignorance of the muscles and their functions : he had no 
separate acquaintance with them, but comprehended them 
under the general term " flesh." He neither supposed 
sensory stimuli to be conducted from the periphery to the 
centre by nerves^a task which he seems rather to have 
assigned to the veins — nor regarded motor stimuli as con- 
veyed by nerves from the centre to the periphery and 
there taking effect through the muscles. On the contrary, 
he imagines those impulses to arise in the heart and to 
be communicated to the bones by the tendons and sinews 
themselves. Thus his intrinsically apt comparison of the 


skeleton to marionettes is only half correct in its working 
out. To the wood and metal of the puppets there corre- 
spond, rightly enough, the bones ; but to the governing 
strings merely the sinews and tendons. We shall be led 
back to the question of the mechanism of sensation and 
the organs of sense by the Stagirite's theory of the soul ; 
in the mean time, however, we must pass in survey that 
part of his physiology which stands at a much higher 
level than these rudiments of a doctrine of nutrition and 
movement, namely, his doctrine of reproduction and 


aristotle as an investigator of nature. 

(Conclusion : Embryology.) 

I . The work " On the Generation of Animals " forms the 
conclusion of the biological writings preserved to us, even 
including the psychological treatises. And as this whole 
group of books follows the " Organon " and the whole 
collection of physical works, we might expect to find here a 
culminating height of intellectual maturity. This expec- 
tation is not disappointed. We light, first of all, on an 
extraordinary piece of self-correction. Fire is removed 
from the series of elements, and now conceived as a 
phenomenon accompanying processes of which any of the 
three remaining elements may be the seat. That the 
unnatural may also be the natural in its own kind, and 
unnatural only in the sense of being an as yet incom- 
pletely triumphant tendency, that in general there is 
nothing truly irregular or fortuitous, that, on the contrary, 
all exceptions to valid rules are in truth merely the out- 
come of conflicting causes, — this is a series of thoughts to 
which Aristotle has here given either precise expression 
or a nearer approach to precise expression than anywhere 
else in his works. With this agrees the more frequent and 
emphatic protest against inadequate observations, against 
illicit generalizations and " empty " generalities, against 
too far-fetched explanations, against the preference of 
reasoning to fact, against the arbitrary substitution of 
plausible conjecture for the actualities of perception. 

There is, in truth, an abundance of actual observations 
collected in these books. The author appeals to ocular 


evidence with unusual frequency and unusual emphasis. 
It is no diminution of his merit that he owes the funda- 
mental "method of embryological research which up to 
our own times has been the most fertile in results " to a 
predecessor, the* author of the book "On the Origin of 
the Child," contained in the Hippocratic collection. This 
method is described by its originator as follows : " If a 
man will set twenty or more eggs under two or more hens, 
if he will take away and break an ^^^ each day, beginning 
from the second and going on till chickens are hatched, 
he will . . . find everything correspond to my description, 
so far as a bird can be compared with a human being." 
This " conception worthy of genius " rested on the fact 
that in truth " it is possible to draw inferences from the 
development of the chicken to that of the mammals." 
Thus comparative embryology was founded and a path 
entered upon which in antiquity was trodden by Aristotle 
alone, which still remained choked up during the Middle 
Ages, and which was first reopened and pursued further 
by a great Italian of the Renaissance, Ulisse Aldrovandi 
(i 522-1607). What chiefly distinguishes the achievement 
of Aristotle is, in the language of the contemporary just 
quoted, "the universal vision which seeks to comprise in 
one view the embryological relations of all known species 
of animals," and which, by the side of many malobserva- 
tions, brought to light an astonishing number of facts, 
some of them destined not to be rediscovered till the 
nineteenth century, relating to the development of the 
most diverse species of animals, notably the Selachii 
(cf. p. 57) and the cephalopods. 

Aristotle's sense for correlations finds here again a 
wealth of opportunities for exercise. We meet with 
observations bearing on this point which arouse the 
astonishment of modern embryologists. Thus Aristotle 
knows and describes that replacement of the placenta by 
lobes (termed by him " cotyledons "), which is associated 
with the characters of the ruminants and the porcine 
family of mammals. The most pleasing efi*ect is produced 
when in such cases Aristotle does not enounce dogmatic 


judgments steeped in the spirit of system, but cautiously 
weighs the facts, and only comes to a decision with some 
hesitation. Thus the position of the pig causes him, justly, 
as our specialists know, considerable perplexity : for the 
sow's young are both several in number and fully developed 
— several as is the case with the many-toed animals, fully 
developed as is the case almost solely with the single- 
hoofed and double-hoofed animals, to which the pig in 
truth belongs. Is, then, the pig's place in the system to 
be determined by the one or the other analogy ? Aristotle 
decides for the second alternative, and, at the same time, 
attempts to account for this exception to the conditions 
prevailing in the double-hoofed class by considerations 
founded on the smallness of the animal and its abundant 
nourishment (presence of a considerable surplus available 
for reproduction). This example may in addition serve to 
illustrate the influence which Aristotle as classifier allows 
to the facts of development as well as to anatomical 

2. Perhaps the most noteworthy masterpiece of Aristo- 
telian subtlety and indefatigability in research and re- 
flexion is provided us by his discussions on teratology. This 
theory of monstrosities or malformations evidently rested 
on foundations supplied by the observations of soothsayers 
and sacrificing priests. To these may well have been 
added facts noted by animal-breeders of all kinds. Yet 
no one would ever have expected from the all-embracing 
encyclopaedist so thorough a treatment of this special 
branch as he actually gives us. For example, that ex- 
tremely rare monstrosity, the two-headed snake, is not 
unknown to him ; he is aware that malformations do not 
occur among bees and wasps ; and the only mistake he 
makes is in naming these particular species instead of the 
general class of insects in which they are contained. 

Still more astonishing, though perhaps of much more 
doubtful value than this extensive knowledge of the facts, 
is the wealth of points of view applied to the explanation 
of them. Thus the question is raised whether there is not a 
connexion between the larger or smaller number of young 


produced at one time and the occurrence of superfluous or 
defective limbs. Evidently there is here a dim perception 
that excess or defect of structural material may be acknow- 
ledged as the common cause in the two cases. Again, the 
crowding to which the eggs of many oviparous animals are 
subject is taken into account as endangering the unimpaired 
development of the young. Yet another point of view is 
the following. Malformations are represented as most 
frequent among those animals whose young come into the 
world before they are fully developed ; the imperfect 
development and the incomplete resemblance to the 
parents are already steps on the road towards monstrous 
formations. Then the supposed greater frequency of mal- 
formations in the male than the female sex^ — a supposition, 
as our specialists assure us, exactly contrary to the truth — 
is immediately referred to a cause with that facility of 
explanation which is already familiar to us, and which is 
so often fatal : the fault is said to lie with the greater 
warmth and consequent greater liveliness and mobility of 
the male embryo, which is thus exposed to greater risk 
of injury than the female. 

Since, with our philosopher, monstrosity passes for an 
extreme case of dissimilarity between offspring and parent, 
the problem of atavism or reversion becomes very closely 
connected with the teratological problem. The fact that 
children " resemble remote ancestors " is well known to 
him. By way of explanation he points to the circumstance 
that the parents are not merely such and such definite 
individuals, but also representatives of larger groups in 
which they are included. As soon, then, as the tendency 
towards the reproduction of the parents (primarily of each 
parent) is from any cause weakened, it is supplanted by 
the in themselves weaker tendencies towards the reproduc- 
tion of the more distant types, of the ancestors (we might 
add, of the people or race), of humanity, finally of the 
animal type in general. 

3. Here it deserves to be noticed that in our days 
Charles Darwin coupled in exactly the same way the 
tendency to reversion with the tendency to dissimilarity 


or variation, and this last with the occurrence of monsters. 
But there are two momentous differences. For Darwin, 
as the advocate of a theory of descent, reversion always 
means the recurrence to an ancestral and never to a merely 
generalized type. But further — and here it may be doubt- 
ful whether the ancient or the modern investigator comes 
nearer the truth — Darwin seeks to explain atavism by the 
hypothesis of pangenesis, while Aristotle employs the ata- 
vistic phenomena themselves as weapons against that 
hypothesis, which had already been championed by the 
Hippocratics. If the reproductive material (it is some- 
what after this fashion that he expresses himselO is to 
contain contributions from all the parts of the body, solid 
as well as liquid, etc., and if this is the cause of the resem- 
blance between parent and offspring, what are we to say 
of such a case as that reported from Elis, in which a Greek 
woman had relations with a negro, but the negro-type did 
not appear till the second generation .'' How is such a 
re-emergence of the negro characters to be explained by 
material transportation ? Where were the particles that 
served for such transport in the intervening generation .-' 
They were present, we should answer, with Darwin, in this 
one generation, and often in a long series of generations, 
as latent germs, and owed their final development to 
favouring conditions which are unknown to us. This, how- 
ever, is not the Stagirite's only argument against the 
hypothesis. Children resemble their parents in gesture 
as well as in feature : what transference of particles can 
have produced such resemblance } A beardless youth 
begets a son who in time becomes a bearded man, though 
no part of his father's as yet non-existent beard could have 
gone to the making of him. 

4. What are the circumstances which determine whether 
the child to be born shall be a boy or a girl ? This pro- 
blem, at the present moment still unsolved, gave early and 
frequent employment to natural philosophers and physi- 
cians. The practical interests as well of parents as of 
stock-raisers, and the enigmatic nature of the process itself, 
roused in equal measure a desire to let in some light 


upon this darkest corner of nature's life. But nothing was 
available except hypotheses, which, for the greatest part, 
were crude and fantastic, and bore, in addition, the stamp 
of the a priori. The right and the left — as the worthier 
and the less worthy sides of the embryo, or of the repro- 
ductive chamber and mechanism, the greater or less 
warmth of that chamber — such were the factors which did 
chief duty as explanations both in philosophical and 
medical literature, and which even brought practical 
measures and maxims in their train, Aristotle discusses 
these theories with great exhaustiveness, and in part at 
least, it may be added, with great success. To precon- 
ceived opinions he opposes ocular evidence, the result of 
numerous dissections of animal and human embryos ; he 
is also acquainted with cases of amputation which contra- 
dict the theories in question. There is much point in his 
reference to the occurrence of twins of different sexes in 
cases where those theories would exclude one or the other 
sex altogether. He is more successful in his polemic 
against Anaxagoras, who had followed Parmenides (cf. 
Vol. I. p. 183), against Leophanes and also Empedocles, 
than he was against Democritus. The latter had laid the 
responsibility for the result on the preponderance of the 
male or the female generative material, a theory which, in 
attributing generative material to both sides, was at least 
in better correspondence with facts now established than 
the Stagirite's objection based on the supposed merely 
stimulative and formative influence of the male element. 
His own answer to the much-discussed question is to the 
effect that the production of a girl is the result of in- 
sufficient nourishment of the embryo, and that this in- 
sufficiency depends on the age of the parent or parents— 
his exposition varies on this point. The epoch of full 
maturity is, he holds, reserved to the propagation of boys, 
the preceding and the following time to that of girls. As 
late as half a century ago there were not wanting statisti- 
cians and men of science who imagined that the general 
average of the facts of experience sufficiently supported 
this theory. The researches of the last decade seem to 


have finally established the inadequacy of this as of every 
other yet propounded attempt at explanation. 

5. There is still another part of this field in which the 
authority of the Stagirite has continued to make itself felt 
for an astonishingly long period of time. We refer to the 
hypothesis of the spontaneous generation of comparatively 
highly-developed animals. Many kinds of insects, all 
shell- fish, and a not inconsiderable number of vertebrates, 
namely fishes, were supposed by Aristotle to come into 
being spontaneously — an error which a highly gifted Italian 
(Francesco Redi, 1626- 1697) was the first to escape in his 
" Experiments on the Generation of Insects." It was 
imagined that plants and animals might spring partly 
from mud, partly from wet sand, partly from putrefying 
matter, under the influence of the " vital or psychic 
warmth " bound up with an air-like substance {^vu)i^ia). 
We are reminded of Anaximander's doctrine of the origin 
of organic beings (cf. Vol. I. p. 54), which, like the doctrine 
of the primary vortex, became the common property of 
the nature-philosophers. Aristotle is in truth here under 
the yoke of hylozoism ; thus, in speaking of the universal 
dissemination of the vital or psychic warmth contained 
in all fluids, he cannot refrain from drawing the infer- 
ence : " So that in a certain manner everything is filled 
with soul." We ask in amazement how the same man who 
achieved so many triumphs in this department of research 
was able to fall at the same time into such grave errors. 
The answer to this question will be somewhat as follows : 
The knowledge of a few fundamental facts of sovereign 
importance in this field was first acquired by means of 
the microscope. With the ignorance of these facts was 
coupled a hardly avoidable misunderstanding of many 
ambiguous experiences, a misunderstanding illustrated by 
precise and apt parallels in even the most recent past. 
The extreme teleological view of nature and the, so to 
speak, atavistic tendency to assume the animation of all 
matter operated in the same direction. In these influences 
we may recognize the factors whose product, so long as it is 
not analyzed, is so well calculated to rouse our astonishment. 


Thus Aristotle knew nothing of the fusion of the male 
and the female generative products. The mammalian 
egg was unknown to him. As we have already remarked, 
he grossly misunderstood the mode in which the male ele- 
ment operates. The motive and formative power which 
he made the sole function of that element was thus readily 
attributed to a different source of energy and heat. If he 
went on to regard the sea-slime as the origin instead of 
the mere nursery of the life with which it teems, his error 
was no worse than that committed by the eighteenth and 
nineteenth century defenders of spontaneous generation. 
They pointed to two vessels kept in the same place, one 
of which showed no trace of organic life, while such life 
swarmed in the other, this having been filled with an in- 
fusion serving as they thought for the generation, but 
really only for the nutrition of low forms of life. Spallan- 
zani (1729-1799) and Pasteur (1822-1895) were the first 
to carry Redi's demand for the exclusion of all organic 
germs to such a pitch of stringency that the old error 
collapsed. Again and again experimenters had believed 
themselves entitled to deny the presence of germs, where 
in reality all that could rightly have been affirmed was in 
the one case the absence, in the other the presence, of 
conditions favourable to their development. This same 
confusion of favouring circumstance with originating cause 
is illustrated in Aristotle by an instance of almost amusing 
naivete. All shell-fish, he teaches, are generated spontane- 
ously, and that out of frothy slime. Thus localities 
previously free from shell-fish are found tenanted by them 
as soon as loss of water has made them slimy. By way 
of experimentuvL crticis the two following instances are 
adduced. When a fleet had lain for some time at anchor 
off Rhodes, and the potsherds which during this stay had 
been thrown in large quantities into the sea became coated 
with slime, numerous oysters were found attached to them. 
But that oysters do not themselves produce any generative 
substance is proved by another incident. Some sea- 
travelled Chians wished to lay out an oyster-bed on the 
coast of their native island. They employed for this 


purpose oysters from the bay of Pyrrha, which was almost 
land-locked and exceedingly rich in all species of marine 
delicacies, a kind of Lesbian mare piccolo {cf Vol. II. p. 
259). The attempt failed. For though the shell-fish trans- 
planted to the coast of Chios increased considerably in 
size, little or no addition was made to their numbers. 
What this incident really teaches is the fact, for which 
there are also other grounds of belief, that the conditions 
sufficient for the thriving of the adult specimens are not 
always adequate to ensure the breeding of oysters. One 
of these conditions, the sheltered situation, was, as Aristotle 
reports, known and heeded by the Chians. Their choice 
may have fallen on the spot where the strait between the 
island and the mainland is still further narrowed by the 
adjacent group of the *' wine-islands." Other conditions, 
such as the presence of numerous objects affording a hold 
for attachment (such as the potsherds in the former 
instance, shells, fascines, etc.), or again the greater salt- 
ness of the sea-water, were probably unknown to them. 
Thus the young fry, which modern oyster-breeders often 
transfer to a special basin of the oyster-farm, did not 
succeed in attaining full development. 

The thought, too, that countless invisible organic germs 
swarm everywhere, only waiting for a combination of 
favourable circumstances to enter upon development and 
growth, must have remained even more alien to Aristotle, 
who seldom looked beyond the immediately perceptible 
(cf. p. 108), than to many of his predecessors. If among 
these Empedocles (cf Vol. I. p. 243), and to a certain 
extent Anaximander, did not disdain to employ transfor- 
mational hypotheses to explain the adaptation of organisms 
to purposes, Aristotle, with his strong confidence in the 
purposefulness of Nature could not believe himself in need 
of such aids. Thus in respect of this great question he 
not only failed to advance beyond Anaximander, Empe- 
docles, Anaxagoras, Archelaus, and Democritus ; he even 
remained in a measure behind them. But while we record 
and endeavour to explain this surprising mistake, we must 
not omit to notice that it was not one of fundamental 


principle. The origin of life is a problem which the science 
of the future, too, will continue to investigate. The fact 
that all attempts so far made at explanation have proved 
without result by no means excludes the possibility of the 
simplest forms of life being some day produced in the 
laboratory, or of proof being obtained that the necessary con- 
ditions for their production were present in an earlier stage 
of the earth's history but have now ceased to exist. Not 
many will be content with Fechner's hypothesis that 
organic life was the original condition of matter, while 
all inorganic substances are the refuse or waste products 
of what once was alive. And when we come to the view 
advocated by no less a person than Helmholtz, that the 
first germs of life reached our planet from some other 
cosmic body (enclosed in meteoric stones), even this post- 
ponement of the problem will hardly yield permanent 

If in the course of this exposition we have been several 
times obliged to mention Aristotle's "vital or psychic 
heat," we have involuntarily brought to notice the close 
connexion which for our philosopher obtained between 
biological and psychological phenomena — a connexion 
which will appear in a still clearer light from our account 
of his theory of the soul. 




I. We have already encountered Aristotle's conception of 
the soul. Psychic, organic, living — these are ideas between 
which there reigns the closest possible connexion. The 
" organic physical body " is for him the " potentially alive," 
while endowment with soul is the " entelechy " or realization 
of the potentially alive or organic. Thus the essential thing 
in the psychic is not, as with us, consciousness or sensation ; 
and when, for example, Aristotle speaks of the vegetable 
soul, we are not to understand him as merely extending 
and transferring what is found in the animal world to the 
subordinate realm of organic life. The meaning attached 
by the Stagirite to the word " soul " is best understood 
when we comprehend under it the whole set of properties 
which characterize the organic or living beings. But he is 
in the habit of designating by the expression not only the 
totality but also particular groups of these properties. As 
a rule, he distinguishes three such groups, and names them 
the nutritive, the perceptive, and the thinking soul. From 
the perceptive soul the appetitive soul is not sharply dis- 
criminated. But on occasion nutrition is divided, according 
as it subserves the mere preservation or the growth of the 
being concerned, and accordingly at this lowest stage of 
the soul-system two souls sometimes appear in place of 
one. In the ascending scale of beings the lower soul is 
as it were absorbed into the higher and more comprehensive 
soul ; " as the triangle is contained potentially in the quadri- 
lateral " (in virtue of its divisibility by the diagonal), " the 
nutritive soul is contained potentially in the perceptive." 


Plato's scheme of truly separate substantial souls, attached 
to different parts of the body, is wholly foreign to his pupil. 

The vital force of the organism is compared to the 
visual power of the eye ; the one, like the other, is called 
the form of the corresponding matter. The soul is for 
Aristotle neither a species of body, like, for example, the 
spherical soul-atoms of Democritus, nor yet anything 
detachable from the body and capable of surviving it. The 
Greek language allows him to express the connexion 
between soul and body much as we should if we could 
say : " The soul is something of the body." It is, so he 
wishes to assert, something attached to the body, not 
something which can be separated from it. When the 
body is bereft of its soul, the latter ceases to exist, but so 
does the organic body itself, as a hand hewn off or hand 
of stone is not or is no longer capable of any function, 
and so in the true sense is no hand at all. Of the one 
limitation to which, according to Aristotle, the mortality 
of the soul is subject, we shall have to speak later on. 

The definition of the soul as the " first entelechy of an 
organic physical body " has already become known to us. 
But the reference to " the first entelechy " still needs a 
word of explanation. Here, as elsewhere (cf. p. Z6), it 
emphasizes a capacity as distinguished from actual exer- 
tion, somewhat as knowledge not in use may be contrasted 
with knowledge present to the mind, or the latent posses- 
sion of qualities during sleep to their actual manifestation 
in waking hours, 

2. Before expounding his own doctrine of the soul, 
Aristotle passes in review and examines the theories of 
his predecessors. The most remarkable feature of this 
polemic, which occupies the first of the three books " On 
the Soul," is perhaps the zeal and decision with which the 
close connexion between body and the soul is defended. 
Thus the Pythagorean thesis that any soul goes into any 
body is despatched by the rough retort that one might as 
well say that the carpenter's art goes into flutes. On 
the contrary, he urges, every exercise of art must use its 
specifically appointed instrument ; and for this purpose it 


is not enough that the soul should simply use the body, 
rather must this particular soul be united with this par- 
ticular body. This is a subject of which the Stagirite 
can never have enough ; he recurs to it again and again, 
meeting the opposite opinion sometimes with reasons and 
sometimes with ridicule. 

In this battle against older views there is much that is 
very apt to give a false impression. For the polemic is 
directed, not only with Aristotle's accustomed dialectical 
acuteness, but also with special emphasis, against opinions 
which in their deepest root are near enough to his own. 
It is clearly this endeavour to mark the frontier between 
his own doctrine and a kindred but not coincident doctrine 
that produces the appearance of a deeper discord than 
actually exists. The doctrine, probably due to Philolaus, 
that the soul is a "harmony" of bodily factors, is one 
which we have already (in treating of Plato's " Phaedo," 
Vol. III. p. 43) reduced to its true kernel, the principle 
that " psychic processes are a function of bodily factors." 
From thence it is not a long journey to Aristotle's formula : 
" The soul is an entelechy of an organic body." In the one 
case as in the other (remember the Aristotelian phrase : 
" The soul is something of the body "), there is a rejection of 
the hypothesis which demands a special, supernatural and 
incorporeal vehicle and generator of the psychic functions. 
It thus also becomes easy to understand how Peripatetics 
such as Aristoxenus and Dicaiarchus could labour to 
bring that old doctrine into new vogue. 

3. We return to the carefully cultivated field of the 
theory of sensation. There is great significance here in 
the recognition of the necessity of a medium for sight as 
well as sound. Whatever the nature of this medium may 
be, whether light is such a medium for the eye, or whether 
air serves this purpose for eye and ear alike, in any case 
Aristotle considers it established that " the movement pro- 
pagated in this medium is that which causes sight." His 
teaching on this subject thus towers high above the crude 
views of the Atomists. While even Democritus explained 
sensation as a detachment of exceedingly thin husks and 


films from the perceived objects and a penetration by them 
of our organs, so that all intervening objects appeared as 
impediments to the process, the Stagirite was perfectly well 
aware that without such supposed impediment no percep- 
tion was possible at all. Even an ant creeping on the vault 
of heaven — Democritus thought — would be clearly visible 
to us if only there were an absolutely empty space stretch- 
ing from earth to heaven. Quite on the contrary — Aristotle 
answers — if that intervening space were perfectly empty, 
occupied by no medium, we should lack, not merely clear 
vision, but all vision whatever, just as much as when there 
is no intervening space at all and the object is held pressed 
against the eye. 

In the sense of touch Aristotle recognized a number 
of different senses collected under a single name ; for he 
found included in it not only the contrast of hard and 
soft, but also those of dry and moist and of warm and 
cold (temperature-sense), together with others not expressly 
named. When he divides the instruments of sense into 
organs of mediate and organs of immediate perception, 
he places the organ of smell in the first class along with 
the ear and the eye, while the senses of touch and taste 
at least appear to need immediate contact with the 
perceived object. But this appearance, he maintains, is 
deceptive. The true difference is only one of degree. It 
is a question whether the contact is really immediate, 
whether skin and flesh really are the seat of the sense 
of touch, A sensation of touch passes unimpaired through 
a membrane spread over our limbs (through a glove, to 
suggest an example). Why should it not also pass through 
the flesh, if not this but an organ lying behind it is the 
true scat of the sensation ? One might almost say that 
Aristotle has here divined the papilUe of touch. In any 
case, he was unwilling to dispense with an exact analogy 
between the different departments of sensation. 

The example of the tongue, which conveys to us 
sensations both of touch and taste, shows, he says, how it 
sometimes depends on an accident whether we distinguish 
several senses or lump them together without distinction. 


Had the same combination occurred over the whole surface 
of the body, taste and touch would have been fused for 
us into a single sense ; and if all our organs of sense were 
enveloped in a layer of air permanently attached to us, 
we should imagine ourselves to perceive sound, colour, and 
sm^ell by the same organ, and these senses would appear 
to us as only one. 

4. These acute and fertile thoughts are sometimes in 
conflict with touches of a barren spirit of system. The 
attempt to reconcile the five senses with the four elements 
had already occupied his predecessors. He himself begins 
by treating these efforts with gentle raillery ; but in the 
end he arrives at such a reconciliation by (strangely 
enough) not only restoring the unity of the sense of touch, 
but by also joining taste to it as a sub-variety. The 
result is an artificial parallelism, on which it is hardly 
worth while to linger. The eye {because of its partly 
fluid contents) is made to correspond to water, the ear to 
air, smell (because its object is a " smoke-like exhalation ") 
to fire, and, lastly, touch to earth. 

On the other hand, it is a pleasure to note compre- 
hensive generalizations, based on an abundance of observed 
facts, such as the following. Sensation is in abeyance 
when strong em.otion (violent fear, for example), when 
absorption in thought or a strong sensory stimulus exerts 
a counteracting influence. In such conflicts, not only the 
feebler, but also the stronger stimulus is weakened. If, 
however, both impulses have the same intensity, they 
annul each other, and the net result is nothing. The same 
principle is at work in mixed impressions, which have less 
power than the simple ones. Here, too, we should place 
Aristotle's acknowledgment of the opposition between the 
emotional effect of sensations and the clearness of the 
information they give. This rule is exemplified on the one 
hand by the human sense of smell, the impressions on 
which have little accuracy (a small number of shades), but 
are continually accompanied by painful or pleasant feeling ; 
on the other hand, by those animals whose lidless eyes 
seem to convey to them few distinctions of colour, but 


strong emotional impressions (fear, and so on). Lastly, 
the Stagirite does not fail to recognize that our sensory 
mechanism has an upper as well as a lower limit to its 
receptivity, that there are thus stimuli of excessive as well 
as of insufficient intensity, and that the excess not only 
impairs perception, but in extreme cases may destroy the 
organ of sense itself. 

In the scale of the senses touch takes the highest 
place. It was regarded by Aristotle as at once the most 
indispensable, for which reason it is not wanting in any 
animal, and as the one which has reached its highest 
refinement in man — a refinement which has the closest 
possible connexion with mankind's possession of under- 
standing. We are reminded of Diderot's saying, " Le 
toucher est le plus philosophique des sens." Even within 
our species higher intellectual endowment goes hand in 
hand with greater fineness of skin — a remarkable observa- 
tion, the soundness of which has to the present day been 
neither established nor disproved. Aristotle ascribes higher 
intelligence, or at least a higher capacity for intellectual 
development, to the blind from birth than to deaf-mutes, 
because the latter are denied access to oral instruction. 
But against this accidental advantage possessed by the 
sense of hearing is to be set the greater wealth of informa- 
tion which the sense of sight affords concerning the objects 
of the external world, clothed, as they universally are, 
with colour ; so that this sense yields the most important 
contributions towards the construction of the world of 

5. In the special part of Aristotle's theory of the senses 
nothing is so remarkable as his endeavour to make the 
results obtained in one particular field do service towards 
the understanding of the whole province. It was by this 
analogism, as we have seen, that he was led to presume 
a medium of sensation even in cases where its existence 
can only be conjectured. Similarly, he sought to repeat 
the acoustic discoveries of the Pythagoreans — this time in 
the field of optics, and even in that of taste-sensations. 
The beauty of colours and the agreeableness of tastes 


were supposed to rest, like the harmony of sounds, on 
a basis of numerical proportions. The analogy, indeed, 
was somewhat vague. The combinations of sounds which 
please the ear had been traced back to the length-ratios 
of the strings producing them by their vibrations. The 
Stagirite, however, is not concerned with the harmony of 
simultaneously perceived colours, but with their production 
by the mixture in different proportions of two colours 
which he assumed as fundamental — black and white. 
Similarly, the manifold variety of tastes was supposed to 
arise from different mixtures of two fundamental tastes — 
sweet and bitter. The pleasing effect of these combina- 
tions was conditioned by the simplicity of the combination- 
ratios. But mixture was not the only origin of colours. 
They were also produced by the clear shining through the 
turbid, or vice versa ; as, for example, the sun is white in 
itself, but appears red when seen through smoke or mist. 
This reduction of optical diversity to the duality of light 
and darkness, as the supposed effect of their shining 
through each other, recurs in Goethe's theory of colour. 
The attempt to explain beauty of colour was resumed by 
Schopenhauer, further developed by him and defended 
against attack. The difference between the two theories 
consists in this — that while Aristotle treats of the pro- 
portional shares of light and darkness in producing a 
single colour, Schopenhauer speaks of the " qualitative 
division of the retinal function." Thus red and green are 
declared to be "the two exactly equivalent halves of the 
retina's activity . . . orange is two-thirds of this activity," 
and so on. 

6. Starting from sense-perception, the road leads 
through after-images (which were well known to our 
philosopher), then through the permanent residues of 
sensation or secondary images to the higher functions of 
opinion and rational knowledge. On the first of the 
stages, more particularly, he expatiates with all the clear- 
ness that could be wished. He is acquainted both with 
the continuance of a strong sensation after removal of 
the object which excites it, and with the occurrence of 


complementary colours or negative after-images ; both of 
these phenomena he is inclined to compare to the continued 
operation of a mechanical impulse once given. But these 
transitory after-effects are of less importance than the 
permanent " residues of actual sensation " which remain 
preserved in the images of memory. In the treatise 
devoted to this subject our surprise is first aroused by the 
elaborately illustrated exposition of the two fundamental 
laws of association, the law of similarity, and the law of 
contiguity. He is here following his teacher, Plato (cf. 
Vol. III. pp. 46, 47), but he outstrips him by perceiving 
that the bond of association acquires special strength from 
emotion. For this is what it comes to when we are told 
than even a " small resemblance " will cheat the coward 
with the vision of an enemy, the lover with that of his 
beloved. And the greater the individual tendency to such 
emotion, the smaller is the degree of similarity necessary 
to effect the illusion, that is, to rouse the associated idea. 
These expositions are weakest in their attempts at physio- 
logical explanation. Those who are most distressed by 
failures of memory are supposed to have an excess of 
moisture in their organ of perception ; and, again, persons 
of dwarfish size and disproportionately large in the upper 
part of the body are said to have specially bad memories, 
because the organ of perception, the heart, is pressed upon 
by a heavy load. These errors, however, should be judged 
leniently. They are only excrescences ; and that out of 
which they grew, the endeavour to bring psychic qualities 
and processes into close relation with physical, is altogether 
worthy of respect. Thus, in proof of the close connexion 
asserted, reference is made to the fact that a memory which 
a persistent effort has failed to recall to the mind often 
presents itself unexpectedly after the attempt has been 
abandoned. Those efforts at recollection had set up a 
physical process w^hich the wearied searcher had no more 
power to check than the man who has thrown a spear or 
ball can stop it when once it has left his hand. Aristotle 
distinguishes between those who firmly retain the impres- 
sions they have received, and those who can reproduce 


them quickly and easily — a distinction which recurs in 
modern psychology under various designations, such as 
" exactness " and " readiness " of memory. It is at first sur- 
prising to learn that while memory is common to man and 
animals, recollection is peculiar to man. Here, however, 
Aristotle is distinguishing, as Plato had done before him, 
between, on the one hand, the continuance of an impression, 
or its reappearance as the direct result of repetition, and 
on the other the recovery of an impression by the help of 
one or more intermediate ideas, generally as the result of 
conscious effort. Whether the higher animals can be justly 
contrasted with man in this respect is perhaps as little 
certain now as it was then. 

The product of memory is compared, quite in modern 
style, sometimes with a "picture" or "image," more often 
with the " impression of a seal." The remark is added that 
the earliest youth and the latest age are alike lacking in 
strength of memory. With the very young, impressions 
are all too fugitive ; applied to running water, the seal 
leaves no impression. In the very aged, on the other hand, 
the receptive organ is as it were hardened, so that the im- 
pression has no depth or sharpness. Innate differences of 
mental qualities produce the same effects as differences of 
age. The too great quickness and the too great slowness 
of intellectual processes affect the sharpness and depth of 
the seal's impression in a precisely similar way. 

7. Memory-pictures and dream-pictures are grouped 
together under the common name of " phantasies," or 
"phantasms." When they are memory-pictures, they are 
so by their relation to the primary images of experience. 
The emergence of sensory residues in the stillness of night 
and sleep is explained by the suspension of that which 
overpowers them during waking hours, the pressure of 
immediate sensation. We are familiar with the illustration 
of this thought by the image of the sun putting out the 
stars ; and Aristotle makes a close approach to it when 
he speaks of a weaker flame being invisible by the side 
of a stronger. The first is not perceived till the second is 
extinguished. A comparison peculiar to the Stagirite is 


that which has reference to an ancient toy — artificial frogs, 
which bobbed up in a dish of water when a layer of salt 
sprinkled over them was melted. In all the cases alike 
the disappearance of an obstacle permitted the emergence 
into the light of something previously suppressed. 

The treatment of sleep and dreams is again weakest at 
the point where physiological explanations are attempted. 
The exhalations arising from the food and forced upwards 
by the vital heat, the loading of the head by them, and 
the consequent feeling of sleepiness, the cooling of the 
exhalations by the brain, the sinking of them so occasioned, 
followed by the cooling of the heart and the stoppage of 
its vital activity — on all this silence is more profitable than 
speech. On the other hand, we ought specially to notice 
that Aristotle deduces sleep from the refusal of the 
exhausted central organ to perform its ofiice, on the ground 
that, if this were not the case, the separate organs of sense, 
being tired at diff'erent times, would sleep by turns. The 
purpose of sleep is, in his view, the preservation of life ; 
for all things made for motion are unable to move un- 
interruptedly, but must have intervals of rest. 

Aristotle is here so little governed by the spirit of 
system that he readily admits the existence of certain con- 
tradictory phenomena of dream-consciousness. There are 
many cases in which it is observed that external stimuli 
reach persons even in sleep, that they even answer ques- 
tions addressed to them, that at least they experience 
sensations of sight and sound, touch and taste, " though in 
a weakened degree, and as if the object were at a dis- 
tance." It is admitted, further, that objectively weak 
stimuli are sometimes felt as unusually intense ; a slight 
noise may be taken for thunder, and so on. The first set of 
instances is explained on the principle that the sleeper's re- 
ceptivity for sense-impressions is at best greatly diminished. 
The explanation of the contrary phenomenon comes as a 
corollary to that of dreams in general. In waking hours 
the phantasms are drowned in the stronger sense-impres- 
sions, and the same thing occasionally happens to indivi- 
dual primary impressions of low intensity ; others, again — 


favoured, we must suppose, by such circumstances as local 
proximity — are heightened because they are relieved of the 
usual competition with other and stronger stimuli. The 
first of these categories includes more particularly the 
sensations originating in the body itself Such sensations 
occasionally come into prominence during sleep, having 
been to a certain extent suppressed during waking hours 
by stronger external stimuli. This latter phenomenon 
gives our philosopher a welcome opportunity to indulge 
that taste for compromise which we know so well. 

The significance of dreams had been roundly denied 
by the champions of enlightenment. Aristotle makes an 
attempt to justify within certain boundaries even this piece 
of old and widespread popular belief On the one hand, 
he contends that sometimes in the dream-state threads of 
consciousness are started which persist into the waking 
state. It may thus happen that now and again dreams 
become " signs and causes " of the actions that follow in 
the waking state ; more correctly it might be said that the 
true " causes " or beginnings are taken for the " signs " of 
actions because their influence upon the latter has remained 
unperceived. The second part of this attempted apology 
is of greater interest. " Eminent physicians " are said to 
have set a precedent by recognizing that " dreams are by 
no means unworthy of our attention." Suppose, for 
example, that a man dreams he is going through fire and 
is burnt by it. It is advisable to examine the parts of his 
body burnt in the dream. The cause of the dream may be 
a " slight heating," due to morbid changes, which escapes 
observation in the waking state for reasons rendered 

8. But while certain classes of dreams are thus not 
entirely divested of significance, Aristotle's attitude towards 
this question is preponderantly that of the Enlightenment. 
Against the hypothesis of " god-sent dreams " he raises the 
objection, among others, that the dream-messages appearing 
to bear this character are not vouchsafed to the " best and 
most intelligent," but to " ordinary persons." We are 
reminded in a measure of those opponents of spiritualism 

t86 greek thinkers. 

who at the present day express their surprise that the 
supposed " spirits " have hardly anything more to say than 
any chance circle of gossipers in any market town. On 
the other hand, the Stagirite is not entirely adverse to the 
belief in telepathy. He assumes a specially close relation 
in this respect between intimate friends and kinsfolk ; 
" movements " — which he does not particularize — proceed 
from human beings, and are most readily perceived by 
those who in the waking state concern themselves most 
about them. Still more obscure than this attempt to 
explain mysterious facts (real or supposed) is the reference 
to those persons, subject to the ecstatic state, who are so 
much the more impressionable by the " movements " 
coming from others as, by in a manner getting outside 
themselves, they lose the ballast of their own " movements." 
For the sake of completeness we note the not quite relevant 
fact that Aristotle is acquainted with the phenomena of 
somnambulism, that he gives a short account of them, and 
that in a lost passage of his " Problems " he tried to 
explain them. 

9. " Phantasies " or " phantasms " are, as we have seen, 
the common names for secondary images of all kinds, 
whether those of memory or those perceived in dreams. 
We ask what is Aristotle's judgment on truth and error in 
this field. His utterances are here not without self-con- 
tradiction, but it is a contradiction which appears rather in 
the words than in the thought. In one place emphatic 
prominence is given to the point that phantasy is funda- 
mentally distinct from affirmation and denial, that is, from 
assertion in general; that it is consequently taken out of 
the categories of truth and error. Again in another place 
" the majority of phantasies " are called " false " or untrue. 
The following is a probable solution of the contradiction. 
The single phantasy does not constitute an assertion which 
might conform to or conflict with the facts. Thus such a 
mere mental picture can deviate very widely from a judg- 
ment founded on knowledge and insight without actually 
contradicting it. For example, side by side with our 
conviction that the sun is larger than the earth, we retain 


an image in our minds of the sun as " a foot in breadth." 
But although the mental image puts forth no claim to 
express a judgment, nothing prevents the percipient from 
comparing its nature with the reality which in any wise is 
mirrored by it. Thus the condemnation referred to, over- 
severe as it is, becomes intelligible to us. For the secondary 
image is mainly a " weakened sensation," that is, a copy 
which in any case differs from its original in degree or 
quantity. There must be added the combinations and 
interlacings which arise among these copies, compared by 
Aristotle with reflexions in water which a little undulation 
will cause so to run into one another that all resemblance 
to the originals is lost. 

10. If the secondary images are thus steeped in error, 
how is it with the primary impressions themselves t On 
this point, too, Aristotle's pronouncements are somewhat, 
but not too far, removed from full strictness of thought. 
In more than one passage the veracity of sensation is 
emphatically maintained, in a manner reminding us of the 
Cyrenaics and of Plato's declarations in the " Theaetetus " 
(cf. Vol. II. pp. 233, 234 ; and Vol. III. p. 158). The sense- 
impression is described as veracious so long as it remains 
"on its own ground." For example, I see white ; that is a 
fact on which no doubt is admissible ; but that the white is 
a man's face may be true or false. Pleasing as it is to 
find the actual sensation thus strictly separated from the 
inferences thence drawn, it is a pleasure which we do not 
enjoy for too long. We soon find that Aristotle did not 
apprehend in its full generality or retain permanently the 
thought which has here come to the surface. For though 
he once describes sensations as true without exception, at 
another time he speaks of the " error which attaches to 
them," even though it be " in very slight degree." 

This contradiction hardly seems to admit of any but 
the following solution. In the one passage Aristotle con- 
siders merely the illusions depending on the incorrect 
interpretation of received impressions, and refuses to see 
in them any diminution of the truthfulness of those im- 
pressions. In the other passage he remembers those 


differences of sensations which rest on individual anomalies 
(the bitter taste of honey for the jaundiced is the typical 
instance in ancient writers), and he is led thereby to limit 
the universality of his former assertion. He might have 
classed both sets of cases under a common head. The 
man instanced by him as imagining himself to see a white 
human face may possibly be mistaken only in his interpre- 
tation of the sensation he has received, or again, his error 
may have begun still earlier, and, being colour-blind, he 
may have seen as a greyish white what appears to others 
as red. It is no matter ; even in the second case we 
cannot speak of the impression as false in the strict sense, 
because, as Democritus aptly remarked, questions of true 
and false are not decided by numbers (cf. Vol. I. p. 360). 
A just judge will not lay much stress on the inconsistency 
of the Stagirite. He has on the one occasion neglected a 
practically unimportant class of errors which at another 
time he is not willing, for the sake of completeness, to 
ignore entirely. 

He is, in any case, excellently informed on the means 
of overcoming the sense-illusions referred to, whether they 
rest on abnormal or on normal misinterpretation, whether 
they arise from physical and physiological or from patho- 
logical causes. One sense — somewhat to this effect he 
writes in a particular passage — corrects the messages of 
the others ; thus sight, for example, corrects the error of 
the sense of touch produced by crossing the fingers (cf. 
Vol. n. p. 232), just as the sense of touch corrects the 
numerous optical illusions. It is a short step to the 
thought that only the co-operation of several senses can 
inform us on the objective qualities of things. It is only 
by this road that the general qualities (permanent and 
variable) of sensible objects can come to our knowledge — 
their form and magnitude, their number, rest, and motion. 
Here one of Aristotle's familiar exaggerations (cf. p. 113) 
makes its entry. Having to establish the advantage which 
a plurality of senses brings to their possessor, he does so 
in drastic fashion by putting an extreme case. Suppose 
we had only one sense, and this was responsive to only 


a single class of sensations. Suppose, for example, that 
we had no sense but that of sight, and that white was the 
only colour we could see, — a white, it must be added, con- 
taining in itself no differences of brightness, nor any variety 
of shades whatever. A very little consideration will show 
that all external objects would in that case blend indis- 
tinguishably ; separate things or forms, even rest and 
motion, would be no more. 

It may here be fittingly observed that in numerous 
passages referring to the specific objects of the senses 
colour alone is spoken of as corresponding to sight, just 
as exclusively as smell corresponds to the olfactory sense. 
Aristotle seems as firmly convinced as Berkeley that dis- 
tance, size, and form are perceived by the aid of sight only 
mediately, in a manner depending upon inference. The 
detailed elaboration of this theory must have been con- 
tained in a lost treatise on optics which was extensively 
laid under contribution by the great Aristotelian, Alexander. 
So far as the preserved works go, Aristotle speaks only of 
the co-operation of sight with other senses in cases where 
Berkeley expressly treats of inferences drawn from impres- 
sions of light or colour. Fundamentally, the two come to 
the same thing, namely, that all advance beyond the specific 
sense-impression is possible only by means of comparison 
and combination ; that is to say, by inference. 

II. From "phantasy" two paths diverge, one leading 
to the thought that works with concepts, and the other to 
desire. Of the first, as the active exercise of reason or 
Nous, we shall speak later on. Here we merely note the 
significant fact that Aristotle always regards thinking in 
concepts as bound to and conditioned by the presence of 
mental images or representations. We fare in thinking much 
as we do in drawing. So little as we can draw a general 
triangle, being always compelled to give our drawing a 
definite size, just as little can we treat of the general pro- 
perties of a triangle without summoning before the mind's 
eye a quantitatively definite triangle, though we may after- 
wards entirely disregard its special attributes. Without 
phantasy or mental images, again, desire is impossible. 


We are specially concerned here with deliberative or con- 
sultative phantasy. 

In order to understand the role assigned to this last, 
it is advisable to consider, first of all, the other two ways in 
which the Stagirite conceives actions to come about with 
the help of knowledge or experience. In the one case, 
desire appears and "says to the living creature: 'Let us 
drink.' Perception adds : ' Here is something drinkable.' 
Forthwith the creature drinks." In the other case, the road 
followed is that of the syllogistic procedure. " Men must 
walk ; I am a man ; I must walk." Naturally our philo- 
sopher is well aware that man is not always like a thinking- 
machine. He hastens to follow up examples such as the 
above by the remark that the " manifest " or self-evident 
part of such an argument, the minor premiss : " I am a 
man," is frequently suppressed in practice. We must not 
be too surprised that he does not go a great deal further 
and abandon altogether a view of human action which is, 
to put it shortly, untrue to life. The man who had dis- 
covered and systematized the syllogism could not be ex- 
pected to put it on half-pay, so to speak, with no duties 
but those of revision. It is thus extremely instructive and 
highly pleasing to learn that this more correct view did 
at least casually dawn upon him. Between the instinctive 
action first mentioned above, and the syllogistic action 
governed by general notions, there comes the already- 
mentioned " deliberative " or " consultative " phantasy, which 
in a passage of the work " On the Soul " is described as 
follows. A living being is confronted with a choice which 
cannot be made without comparison and the discovery of 
a common measure. But the kind of consideration in- 
volved — this is roughly what we are told — is of so primitive 
or simple a kind that " it does not seem to bear the cha- 
racter of an ' opinion ; ' indeed, it lacks the syllogistic form." 
Here, obviously, we have a confession, let slip half in- 
voluntarily by the Stagirite, that there is another sort of 
thinking besides that which works in concepts, that, as we 
say now, there is in reality an inference from particulars 
to particulars. This middle stage \^ not assigned to man 


only, but to some of the higher animals as well, seeing that 
"beings," in the plural, are spoken of as deliberating. 
Doubtless these animals are conceived of as often remain- 
ing at the lowest stage of instinctive action ; and we shall 
hardly go wrong if we attribute to Aristotle the thought 
that the undeveloped man (child or savage) frequently 
acts at this lowest level, and even the fully-developed man 
sometimes, when he is swayed by emotion or led by blind 



aristotle's doctrine of the soul. 

(Continuation : The Problem of Will.) 

I. We have now reached Aristotle's discussion of the 
problem of will, concerning which we have already made 
the anticipatory remark that it would appear " compara- 
tively free from inconsistencies." Comparatively, it may 
be, but not completely. One might almost be tempted, 
were the subject not entirely incapable of numerical state- 
ment, to say that the Stagirite was nine-tenths determinist, 
one-tenth indeterminist. It was, as we have seen, quite 
without justification that his treatment of the notion of 
chance has had read into it an attack upon universal 
causation. With equal injustice he has been supposed to 
be defending freedom of the will as something morally 
valuable in passages where what he has in view is only 
spontaneous action, such as is common alike to men and 
animals, to children and adults. The main point in his 
teaching is that characters, dispositions of will, moral 
qualities, belong to the mature human being ; they are 
modes of action which have become fixed by habit. We 
are certainly not bound for that reason to regard them 
as absolutely unalterable ; but still they cannot be dis- 
carded or fundamentally changed at mere pleasure, by an 
arbitrary resolve. Each single act of a man is the outcome 
of his character at the time. There is a passage in the 
" Ethics " where it is said that we can at will strike a 
fellow-man or offer him money ; no external coercion 
compels us to perform or to abstain from either act. So 
far they are voluntary actions, standing in our power. 


But the elements of character from which these actions 
spring, the brutality that comes to light in the blow, or 
the corrupt purpose manifested in the offer of money, are 
conditioned by our past life : they are the result of habit 
and education. Aristotle declares with full emphasis, and 
almost in the words of a modern determinist, that " we 
cannot, indeed, directly will to be different from what we 
are." The vicious man can no more shake off his vice 
by an act of will than the sick man his sickness. But 
this comparison by no means carries with it the thought 
that every moral malady, any more than every physical 
malady, is incurable. The systematic treatment which in 
the one case devolves upon the physician is in the other 
case a matter of training and education, which latter may 
quite conceivably be self-education. 

Hitherto, the Stagirite's thought moves entirely on the 
lines of modern determinism, which was developed in an 
earlier age by the Stoics. But at this point he enters upon 
a new and unexpected path. Responsibility, and that for 
virtuous actions much more than for vicious, demands a 
justification. Aristotle provides one, as he thinks, by 
attaching responsibility not to the ready-formed character, 
but to the character in the make. Admitted that the indi- 
vidual act is the outcome and result of a well- or ill-formed 
character, that this formation proceeds chiefly through 
habit, and that each new repetition of an action strengthens 
and confirms in ever-increasing degree the disposition of 
mind from which it springs : the choice of character is yet 
represented as having been originally in our own hands. 
We are reminded of the choice of destinies in Plato's 
"Republic" (cf Vol. III. p. 105). Great is our astonish- 
ment, ana many are the objections which throng upon our 
mind. How, for example, can the criminal's child, born 
with vicious dispositions and bred to vice, have full freedom 
in such a choice .'' But while Aristotle thus saddles himself 
with many an impossibility, he would not have been the 
powerful thinker that he was if he had simply stopped 
here. He could not acknowledge so generously the power 
of habit, and at the same time entirely overlook the 


influence of the still more potent factor of natural endow- 
ment which is presupposed in habit. While considering 
natural endowment, he obviously falls into perplexity 
about his own doctrine, and brings against it an objection 
of the following form. As against the assertion that we 
choose our character, it may be urged that all creatures 
strive after that which seems to them to be good (that 
is, in this case, profitable, healthful, or pleasurable). If, 
then, an individual assigns this quality to a particular end, 
he does so on the strength of a mental representation or 
" phantasy." Thus the former thesis cannot be maintained 
erect unless we concede the power of choosing not only 
one's character, but also one's mode of representing things 
to the mind. Our philosopher evidently finds it extremely 
difficult to reconcile himself to such a concession. He 
cannot forget that natural endowment here counts for 
something, and indeed plays a decisive part. An anxious 
suspicion may well have insinuated itself into his mind, 
that his position involves a circular argument : choice of 
character depending on presentations, presentations de- 
pending on character already acquired. He falls into 
bewilderment, and cannot come to a real decision. To 
the adverse thesis he gives the most forcible formulation 
possible : " For the good as for the bad, the supreme end 
of life is fixed by natural bent or some other such cause, 
and is permanently regarded as such." But presently he 
recoils from the consequences of this admission ; he yields 
liimself prisoner to the widespread popular opinions which 
he is unable to coin afresh, and he exclaims : " If all this 
is true, how could virtue be any more voluntary than vice.''" 
He is afraid of endangering free-will, and with it, as he 
thinks, the value of virtue ; for this reason he breaks off 
the whole discussion, and abandons arguments the validity 
of which he is unable to destroy. The investigation which 
he has spun out to such great length, often with great 
refinement and depth, has thus been all in vain. Or 
perhaps it has not been wholly fruitless. In cutting the 
knot Aristotle may have hoped to convince his hearers and 
readers : he did not convince himself. This is betrayed 


by his tone, which from sentence to sentence becomes 
more timid and uncertain ; it is proved by the constant 
accumulation of qualifications, limitations, and parentheses. 
At the beginning of the discussion man is described as 
the " author " of his disposition ; presently he is so only 
" as it were," then " to a certain extent," and lastly he is 
only " in a manner the co-author " of his character. Just 
such language might be used by a convinced determinist, 
— might, in fact, have been used by the Stoic Chrysippus, 
who neither denied the effectiveness of " intense volitions " 
nor detached them from the general network of causes, 
but recognized them as intermediate links of the utmost 
importance and indispensability. 

2. That Aristotle's peculiar doctrine of freedom struck 
no deep root in his soul may be inferred, we think with 
certainty, in another way. From that doctrine there flow 
consequences in the field of criminal responsibility which 
Aristotle was far removed from drawing. If the evil-doer's 
responsibility were confined to his choice of his own 
character, the habitual criminal would escape with little 
or no punishment, while the youthful offender, who has 
just chosen his character, would have to be punished with 
great severity. But with our philosopher there is no trace 
of any such inference. His judgment on the punishment 
due to an offence is not determined by any regard to that 
original freedom of choice, its nearness or remoteness, but 
simply and solely by considerations of social " utility," 
which he emphasizes in explicit terms. He confines him- 
self entirely to the lines of a rational criminal jurisprudence 
which regards the infliction of evils as justifiable only so 
far as it serves to prevent the commission of future mis- 
deeds. In this he even goes further than the majority 
of modern criminalists. He refuses to accept drunkenness 
as a mitigating circumstance. He cites with approval that 
law of Pittacus which enacted severer punishments for acts 
of violence committed in the drunken state than for similar 
acts committed by sober persons. His aim was to produce 
a deterrent effect on the drunkard by attachmg a penalty 
to his vice itself as soon as it led to the injury of others. 


Legislation, says Aristotle bluntly, should aim at encourag- 
ing the one class of actions (those serving the general good) 
and at restraining the other class (those to the common 
hurt). If in such contexts he uses words like "volun- 
tarily " or " in our power," he is not in the least thinking 
of that remote original choice of disposition, but merely 
excluding actions caused by "external force" or by un- 
avoidable "ignorance." Possibly he does not always 
strictly maintain the distinction between the two meanings 
of those expressions. 

We may add that the theory of punishment built 
on this foundation is in entire harmony with Aristotle's 
prevalent determinism. Punishment may follow, as sub- 
sidiary aims, the restraining of private revenge, the rendering 
criminals harmless, or their reformation (though with the 
short-term imprisonments of antiquity this last result was 
not much thought of) ; its main purpose is and remains, 
whatever may be said, that of intimidation. The law- 
giver who aims at this may very well cherish the determinist 
view of human will. To the social motive proved insufficient 
he adds a more efficient motive ; he seeks to weaken anti- 
social tendencies by throwing into the opposite scale a new 
factor, the fear of punishment — a fear which in the worst 
case is calculated to produce a wholesome effisct, if not 
on the hardened soul of the criminal, yet on the more 
plastic soul of the onlooker. 

3. The deterministic view which thus prevails with 
Aristotle is apparently broken through at a point on which 
we have already touched (cf. p. 106). But the object of 
his attack is there not in reality determinism, but the 
distinct, though cognate, fatalistic principle. If anything 
happens by necessity — so we are told in that passage of 
the work " On Interpretation " — no room is left for human 
action and the deliberation which precedes it. The fact 
that human deliberation and the actions which spring from 
it do often interfere with the course of things moves the 
Stagirite to a protest against the mechanization of the 
whole sum of happenings. It must not be overlooked that 
Aristotle is not here speaking strictly of human will ; that 


which he emphasizes in opposition to fatalism is not so 
much the so-called freedom of the will as the capacity 
for deliberation, for taking counsel with one's self and 
acting accordingly. Had he been required to enlarge 
his survey he would certainly not have denied that these 
deliberations have in each case a previous history, that 
they are conditioned by the deliberator's stock of know- 
ledge and power of thought, and not least of all, as our 
philosopher elsewhere emphatically acknowledges, by his 
emotions. But on this occasion the distinction between, 
on the one hand, what a later thinker (Epicurus) calls 
" automatic necessity," or the causal linkage of purely 
material processes, and the intervention of human thought 
and corresponding action on the other, has produced so 
deep an impression on him that he has lost sight for a 
moment of the common causal foundation underlying both 
kinds of processes. An earlier philosopher, for whom 
Aristotle professed no exaggerated esteem, might well 
have been here recalled to his memory. We have already 
said, in praise of Heraclitus, " that he constructed compre- 
hensive generalizations comprising both realms of human 
knowledge, as it were, with a mighty bow " (Vol, I. p. 63). 
He recognized, and the recognition took a high place in 
his system, the universal sway of order and law governing 
both spheres alike. The late successors of Heraclitus, the 
founders of the Stoa, may for their part have only too 
often overlooked the deep-rooted distinction in their 
acknowledgment of what was common, and so have leant 
towards fatalism ; Chrysippus, the true shaper of the 
Stoic doctrine, will ever be remembered as the first to 
discriminate strictly between the deterministic theory 
which acknowledges the exceptionless rule of cause, and 
the fatalistic theory which, in addition, ignores or eliminates 
the part played by acts of human will. 



aristotle's doctrine of the soul. 

(The Doctrine of Nous, or Reason.— Conclusion.) 

I. We enter upon the second of the paths which lead from 
the lower ground of " phantasy " to the higher forms of 
human mental life (cf. p. 189). Or, to be more accurate, 
we have already trodden this path more than once. In 
treating of Aristotle's " principles of proof," we were intro- 
duced to induction as the instrument for the acquisition of 
these as of other "first" truths (p. 75). Still earlier we 
came upon the stages by which the soul climbs from the 
first fixation of a received impression up to art and science, 
that is, to pure theory and theory applied to practice 
(p. 55). These stages were declared to be first memory, 
then experience, which arises from the frequent repetition 
of similar impressions, and which comes to be nothing else 
than a " multitude of memories of the same object." Out 
of experience, again — or better, out of all the " universal 
that being a one as well as many has become firmly rooted 
in the soul " — we saw art and science take their rise. 

The separate members of the series of living beings 
take a lower or a higher place in the animal world ac- 
cording as they share only in the lowest of these activities, 
or in the less elementary as well. To some animals, at 
the bottom of the scale, sense-perception alone is allowed ; 
to others, memory ; and to others again, the faculty of 
learning. This last is represented as conferred through 
the intermediacy of the sense of hearing— a sense extremely 
serviceable to the development of intelligence, though not 
unconditionally requisite, as the example of the bees shows. 


True understanding is peculiar to man ; he alone has the 
power of forming general concepts, by means of which he 
mounts to the summit of knowledge. 

It is, if not a directly authenticated fact, yet a highly 
probable inference, that in these lines of thought the 
founder of the Peripatetic school followed in the footsteps 
of an original thinker whose acquaintance the reader has 
already made, Alcmseon of Crotona, a physician with 
Pythagorean leanings (cf. Vol. I. p. 150). Thus we are 
once more confronted by the Asclepiad in Aristotle (cf. 
ch. vi.). The Platonist in him, the complementary opposite 
of the empiric, will appear in his doctrine of Nous, with its 
tinge of mysticism. 

2. This doctrine, which can be traced back finally to 
Anaxagoras, is one of the most debated portions of the 
Aristotelian system. Theophrastus, Aristotle's immediate 
successor in his school, vainly wrestled with its difficulties. 
That he failed to gain a complete understanding of the 
doctrine is, indeed, more than we can affirm. But he was in 
any case at a loss how to answer certain obvious objections 
to it, or how to defend it successfully against attack. A 
precious fragment of his writings is preserved to us in which 
he sets out so many difficulties with so much emphasis that 
we seem to hear the voice of an opponent rather than of 
a disciple. There is, at any rate, one inference which we 
may draw with tolerable certainty from this state of things, 
and that is that the author of the Nous doctrine did not 
expound it, somewhere outside the works known to us, 
with clearness and fulness sufficient to ensure its compre- 
hension and acceptance. 

We are reminded of Plato, and Plato in the last phase 
of his speculation, by the part of Aristotle's teaching 
which bears upon the continuance of the principle of Nous, 
or reason. While elsewhere the soul is for our philosopher, 
not indeed corporeal, but something inseparably attached 
to an organic body, the rational principle in man receives 
from him the same prerogative which the Platonic 
" Timsus " accords to the "reasonable head-soul" (cf Vol. 
III. p. 38). Even this immortality, it is true, is not for 


Aristotle a personal thing. The rational principle im- 
planted in man before birth returns after his dissolution to 
the place whence it came, to the ether of the celestial 
regions — that ether which is immaterial because divested 
of all physical qualities except those of filling space and 
moving in it. In this respect Aristotle stands on the 
ground of an ancient and popular belief, which We have 
met with both in Epicharmus and in Euripides, and which 
was quite the predominant opinion at Athens about the 
end of the fifth century (cf. Vol. II. p. 84 ; Vol. III. p. 10). 
Aristotle has thus compromised between the teaching of 
his master and the current belief of the age. He took 
from the first the limitation of immortality to the rational 
part of the soul ; from the latter, its return to the heavenly 
element and the extinction of individual consciousness. 

3. For the motives of this innovation we have not far 
to seek. Definitely and emphatically as Aristotle asserts 
the intimate union of the individual soul with the in- 
dividual body, decisively as he repudiates the "entrance 
of any soul into any body" (cf. p. 176), the grounds of this 
anti-Pythagorean attitude do not reach as far as the point 
at which the soul appears as a purely intellectual factor. 
The greater or smaller susceptibility to particular emotions 
might seem to be connected by experience with the 
physical constitution of the individual ; the same might 
appear to be true of the obstacles which impede intellec- 
tual activity ; the irascibility of one or the stupidity of 
another might be charged upon their bodily peculiarities : 
the faculty of thought itself, as soon as and as long as it 
is actively exercised, displays the same features in all alike. 
There are no individual differences in A's and B's manner 
of proving the Pythagorean theorem. It thus becomes in- 
telligible that the vehicle of purely intellectual activity 
should be regarded as a factor common to all men, emanci- 
pated from the limits of individual and physical parti- 
cularity, and just for that reason delivered from the curse 
of mortality — as a factor whose origin is directly associated 
with the Deity, and which is endowed with only that kind 
of materiality which is furthest removed from the cruder 


forms. We thus find ourselves in a position to understand 
our philosopher's celebrated asseveration that Nous alone 
enters into man from without, and is alone divine ; that its 
activity is in no way affected by the activity of the body. 
In immediate proximity to this statement is another in 
which the soul in general is spoken of as " more divine 
than the so-called elements," and its seat declared to be 
the heat enclosed in the breath of life (Trveujua). But while 
this vital warmth is only "by analogy" regarded as the 
matter of which the stars are formed, Nous is itself clothed 
with the heavenly substance or ether, and is therefore alone 
of truly divine nature. Parallel with these gradations is 
the progressive refinement which leads from pure matter 
to pure form. This rising scale has its beginning, as we 
saw (cf p. 86), within the series of the elements them- 
selves. As among these fire has most of the nature of 
form, so clearly the principle of life or of soul is in the 
same way pre-eminent over fire ; while the heavenly ether, 
as the garment of Nous, receives the highest place in this 
scale, and is described as pure, immaterial form. This 
analogism may perhaps strike us as somewhat sportive ; 
still, it is intelligible that the part of the soul which stands 
highest and at the greatest distance from the crudely 
material, is regarded as the vehicle of the most refined 
mental functions, as the cognitive principle to which man 
owes his knowledge of the highest and most general 
abstractions. Thus Nous is termed, on the one hand, 
immaterial, or all but immaterial matter; on the other, 
" the form of forms." 

4. These deliverances have certainly offered many a 
handle to criticism. As early a critic as Theophrastus 
asks why Nous, which enters ready-formed into the 
embryo, waits so long before manifesting itself in activity. 
Why does the child exhibit a lack of understanding .' 
What are the conditions and what the accompaniments of 
reason's awakening .'' We should have expected so obvious 
an objection to have been known to and even anticipated 
by the author of the doctrine. Any one who likes high- 
sounding phrases may describe what appears to be 


Aristotle's answer by saying that he substitutes the 
principle of adaptation for that of development. He com- 
pares Nous to the eyes of nocturnal animals which are 
blinded by the light of day ; and the comparison at least 
suggests the thought that only by gradual habituation to 
the glare of the highest truths can we become enabled to 
perceive them. For since Aristotle cannot possibly deny 
to the Nous in man the power of seeing these truths, it can 
hardly be idle conjecture if we attribute to him the thought 
that their full knowledge is conditioned by the training 
and adaptation of the cognitive organ. According to this 
view, Nous would not, properly speaking, become stronger 
during the period of growth, but would fare like an eye 
which gradually becomes accustomed to a brilliant light 
and so learns to bear it. 

Another of Theophrastus's puzzles relates to " the origin 
of forgetting, deception, and falsehood." How is it possible 
— such, clearly, is the point of his question — to reconcile 
such loss and such clouding of the truth with the presence 
in us of an essentially divine, imperishable, and unchange- 
able principle of knowledge .-' But here the statement of the 
difficulty is followed by at least the rudiment of a solution. 
Theophrastus adds doubtingly : *' Or is it perhaps through 
mixture } " In these words he points to a main element in 
the doctrine on which we have not yet touched. The Nous 
in man is delared to be twofold, or, when we consider it 
more accurately, of threefold nature — active, passive, and 
the mixture of the two. It is properly the first which is 
the divine and eternal principle ; it is wholly and absolutely 
energy and actuality ; it is unceasingly active, even though 
we are not always aware of its activity. (We are here, by 
the way, reminded of Lichtenberg's and Heinrich von 
Kleist's expressive saying : " It thinks in us.") This active 
principle is matched with a receptive or passive element 
comparable to matter and potentiality as opposed to form 
and actuality. It might be termed a mediator between the 
strength of the divine nature and the weakness of the 
human. The active Nous effects everything, the passive 
Nous undergoes everything ; the first is immortal, the 


second is not. In regard to its particular nature, Aristotle 
is still more sparing of words than in the case of the active 
Nous. It may be conjectured, not without reason, that he 
conceived its function only in shadowy outline, and that his 
thought lacked clear and full development for himself as 
well as for his reader. In a certain sense, so Theophrastus 
tells us, the two kinds of Nous are two entities, but in 
another sense only one, just as one object is compounded 
of form and matter. 

5. The whole theme is treated mainly by way of indica- 
tion, and is full of enigmas. How are we to understand 
the identity which Aristotle asserts between Nous and its 
object .' We can, indeed, discover, with more than approxi- 
mate certainty, how it is not to be understood. Aristotle 
may not be credited with a confusion between a function 
or activity and its object. Just as little can he have 
intended to maintain the mere subjectivity of the truths 
apprehended by Nous. Thus, other considerations apart, 
he compares active Nous with light, which makes visible 
and lifts into true actuality those colours which, though 
previously only potential, were still objectively present. 
The following we imagine to be the true interpretation of 
that asserted identity. If I cognize a sensible object, then 
besides the cognized form there is the matter united with 
it, which remains over as the mere substratum of it, given 
in point of fact but not penetrated by the mind, a kind of 
opaque residue. This is not the case where knowledge 
relates, not to the concrete thing, the compound of form 
and matter, but to the pure form itself. This object of 
knowledge is wholly cognized, wholly penetrated -by the 
mind, wholly taken up into it. In so far as this is the task 
of Nous, which is itself pure form — indeed the "form of 
forms " — Nous may be spoken of as identical with its object. 

Further, how can Aristotle have arrived at the viev/ 
that the active Nous is unceasingly at work in us, while 
our consciousness bears no witness to this uninterrupted 
activity of the processes of thought .-' It would be an 
insufficient answer merely to presuppose that there is no 
sleep without dreams, and thus no intermission of conscious 


life. For it is one thing to assume that our imagination 
or "phantasy" never takes holiday, quite another to sup- 
pose that the true intellect, the higher faculty of thought, 
exercises its powers absolutely without interruption. A 
better way out of the difficulty might seem to be provided 
by the observation that after beginning a piece of mental 
work, one sometimes finds one's self suddenly in presence 
of the result, without any consciousness of the path by 
which it has been reached. But even here it is not made 
an easy matter for us to rest satisfied. We have already 
seen how Aristotle found an exit from an at least similar 
impasse without assuming unconscious thought (cf. p. 182). 
The unexpected emergence of a memory for which a search 
has been begun and then abandoned, was explained as 
due to the continuance of a physiological process set up 
by the search. But it is quite possible that this solution, 
while sufficient in what he deemed a lower sphere, may 
have seemed to him inadequate where the functions of the 
true intellect were concerned. The most probable ex- 
planation is perhaps that the belief we are considering 
followed immediately from his conviction that the vehicle 
of thought is immaterial, seconded, possibly, by the 
analogy of the heavenly bodies, themselves moving with- 
out cease, which, like Nous, are " divine," and which 
occupy the celestial spaces whence Nous proceeds. 

The Nous now lodged in our bodies is existent, active, 
and living from all eternity, but we have no recollection 
of this former life of it, any more than of its uninterrupted 
working in ourselves. This discrepancy between the 
theory and the testimony of consciousness needed ex- 
planation. The following consideration would seem to 
have opened the way for one. The mental faculty which 
preserves impressions is identical, or at least closely kin, 
with the faculty which has received them. But the re- 
ceptive element in the soul, just because of its receptivity, 
must be something dependent, more of the nature of 
matter than of form, passive, and therefore vulnerable and 
perishable. In its vulnerability and perishability the 
ground is to be sought for the absence of all memory 


touching the previous history of the active Nous, or rational 
principle, at work in each one of us. We shall hardly err, 
we think, if we interpret Aristotle's hints as indicating 
that this was the road by which he arrived at the division 
of Nous into an active and a passive part. 

But this division, when once accomplished, was bound 
to prove serviceable towards other ends as well. Just as 
that highest thought-principle, precisely because of its 
immateriality, could admit no suspension of its activity, 
so, too, it was subject to no enfeeblement or corruption. 
Where such undeniably appears, it is attributed, firstly, to 
the subordinate passive principle of reason, then to the 
body which for the time being houses it and the associated 
organs of the soul. Just as the man who is blind through 
senile weakness would have his full power of sight restored 
by a change of visual organs, so a change of the soul's 
instruments would restore the full power of thought to 
the psychically enfeebled. Aristotle thus seizes upon the 
expedient which is always ready to hand for those who, 
despite contradictory appearances, stand forth as defenders 
of the indestructible and invulnerable soul. The musician 
is in perfect health, his power unimpaired ; but from 
strings out of tune he can draw no sound that pleases, 
and from broken strings no sound at all. 

6. Before we proceed, we have to bring into prominence 
an important distinction which hitherto has been mostly 
overlooked. Aristotle speaks of Nous sometimes in a 
narrower and sometimes in a wider sense, and, as his 
manner is, he does not inform the reader of the fact. 
Sometimes the term means for him the power of thought 
in general, that " by means of which the soul fashions 
thoughts and sets up hypotheses ; " sometimes it is used as 
the antithesis to all mediate knowledge, to all proof and all 
reflexion {logos). In these cases the function of Nous is 
represented by him as a " touching ; " it is compared with 
the physical senses as being, in a manner, a new sense of 
higher order, as a capacity, we might say, for intuitive 
rational cognition. This Nous, in the narrow sense, is the 
organ for the apprehension of concepts. 


It is difficult, if not impossible, to compass here a full 
agreement with that version of Aristotle's theory of know- 
ledge which we have found at the close of his main logical 
work and also in some passages of the " Metaphysics " (cf. 
pp. 55 and 82). In the form of the Nous-doctrine which now 
occupies us there is no mention of the decisive role which 
was there assigned to sense-perception and induction in 
the formation of concepts. The empirical element which 
stood in the forefront of the theory of knowledge both 
there and in the doctrine approximating to Alcmaeon's (cf. 
p. 198), has now retreated somewhat into the background ; 
we are reminded of that residue of Platonism which 
Aristotle never fully overcame (cf. p. 78). It is thus 
desirable to ascertain the limits of this discrepancy with 
all attainable precision, but at the same time to avoid all 
exaggeration with the greatest possible care. 

7. This intuitive cognition by the reason, or intel- 
lectual apprehension, is applied by our philosopher only to 
the formation of concepts and to those judgments called 
analytic or elucidatory (Kant's expression), not to the syn- 
thetic judgments which add something to what is already 
contained in the subject. The first of these categories 
includes more especially definitions or delimitations of 
concepts. In this region Nous is said to be as infallible 
as the senses in their own province (cf. p. 187). The oft- 
mentioned " immediate propositions " are certainly in pre- 
ponderant measure the statements or the developments of 
definitions. They include a portion of the material out of 
which syllogisms are constructed, but this is true only in 
small measure of the axioms or rules by which the structure 
of syllogisms is governed. The function of Nous in its 
narrower and higher sense reaches thus far and no farther ; 
it apprehends its objects, concepts, no otherwise than as 
the organs of sense apprehend sensible objects. It has not 
the capacity of acquiring new truths, new combinations 
(syntheses). The apriorism which we have so often met 
with, especially in the physical works, is, we see, an occa- 
sional if not infrequent abuse, not a method followed as a 
matter of principle. 


There is one real contradiction which critics have believed 
themselves to have discovered within the doctrine of Nous. 
On the one hand, Aristotle persists in an earnest endeavour 
to represent Nous as a mere capacity, as a force which pre- 
vious to or apart from its exertion is nothing, which before 
such exertion has no more content than an " uninscribed 
tablet." On the other hand, it is observed, Aristotle 
assigns to Nous such predicates as " free from admixture," 
" separable," " incapable of being acted upon," which one 
does not feel justified in applying, except to a substance 
or entity. And just this word {ovma) does occur sometimes 
in connexion with Nous. To any one who sees in this a 
want of clearness and consistency, it can only be answered, 
as we have remarked already (p. 89), that we have before 
us " a fault and a weakness of the human mind which cannot 
be taken as characterizing a special employment of it," still 
less a particular hero of the intellect. In any case, when 
Aristotle appended to those very predicates the designa- 
tion " in its essence pure energy," he was conscious of no 

We shall again meet with Nous and its intuitive cha- 
racter in the ethical doctrines of Aristotle. For the present 
its oft-extolled godlike or divine nature leads us on to the 
consideration of that which, in his dialogue " On Prayer," 
Aristotle represents as " itself Nous, or else something 
raised above Nous," namely, the Deity, 



Aristotle's theology. 

I. Religion comes before theology, that is, systematic 
reflexion on divine things is preceded by surmise and 
emotion. Religious feeling was by no means lacking in 
Aristotle. It finds expression in his writings after a 
manner which is often affecting, and sometimes rises to 
fervour. Nor should this surprise us. Though the depth 
of his character does not reach to that of his master Plato, 
his nature was not flat and shallow enough to be blind 
to the wonders of Nature's ways, to be obtuse to the secrets 
of the world's workings, or not to look upward with reverent 
eyes to a "Higher, Unknown." But as soon as he under- 
takes to condense his surmises into propositions, and to 
mould their content in definite forms, it becomes un- 
commonly difficult for him to reconcile the demands of 
his religious feeling with the claims of his scientific think- 
ing. If he did not succeed in the attempt to create a self- 
contained and rounded-off theological system, we have no 
cause for wonder. Much more remarkable is the deep 
earnestness with which he conceived the problem and 
laboured to bridge the yawning gulf between the con- 
flicting claims of emotion and intellect. 

The attitude which the Stagirite assumed towards the 
great riddles of the universe may be described as a mono- 
theism inset with touches of pantheism. Following, as he 
did, in the footsteps of Xenophanes and Plato, he was 
impelled to presume one Director of the universe mainly 
by his conviction of the strict unity of all nature. We have 
noticed the zeal with which he maintains the unity and 


uniqueness of the heaven — a zeal which leads him as far 
as to identify the visible celestial sphere with the universe 
(cf, p. 123). He distinguished, indeed, between the four 
elements of the sublunary region and the one element of 
the celestial region above, between the changefulness of 
the first and the unchangeableness of the other. But he 
regarded the distinction as no infringement of the supreme 
unity, because the region of our world is only " a small, 
evanescent part of the All." He illustrates this unity by 
a twice-repeated comparison taken from the province of 
dramatic art. Nature, he says, is not " episodic, like a bad 
tragedy," one, that is to say, in which the separate acts 
and scenes are only loosely ranged in series, not inwardly 
connected with each other. It is quite consonant with 
all this that, in reviewing the doctrines of the nature- 
philosophers, Aristotle awards the prize to Anaxagoras, 
with the emphatic words : " Nous was now named as the 
author of order in the whole of nature, as well as in the 
structure of living beings ; and he who affirmed this seemed 
like a sober man after the wild words of his predecessors." 
The most deep-going of his theological discussions ends in 
an approving citation of the Homeric line — 

" Bad is the lordship of many ; let one be your ruler and master." 

2. Just this mention of Anaxagoras should remind us 
of the limits set to our philosopher's monotheism, in spite 
of the emphasis with which he professes it. Part of these 
limits he has in common with the sage of Clazomenas, 
part is peculiar to himself. Both of them wished to impose 
upon the scientific spirit, which demands the recognition 
of a permanent orderliness, inherent in things themselves, 
no greater sacrifice than appeared absolutely necessary 
for the benefit of their God or Spiritual Being. Accord- 
ingly, Anaxagoras supposed a single, spatially limited 
intervention of Nous, at the beginning of the rotary move- 
ment ; Aristotle, a permanent but likewise spatially limited 
attraction exercised by the " First Mover " on the outer- 
most celestial sphere ; and each attached to such primary 
influence an interminable vista of consequences. But these 
VOL. IV. p 


consequences could be produced, whether by Nous or the 
" First Mover," only on condition that the peculiar 
tendencies of matter itself, its weight and lightness, or 
nisus towards the " natural places," should co-operate with 
those impulses to motion or be set at work by them (cf. 
Vol. I. pp. 214, 215). Each set of primordial tendencies 
is of the highest teleological significance as the foun- 
dation of all purpose-serving distribution of matter ; at the 
same time, they are original and ultimate facts, indepen- 
dent of all directing or shaping activity of Nous or the 

For the rest it is possible to detect a noteworthy differ- 
ence between the two systems, the exact opposite of what 
on prior grounds one would have been inclined to expect. 
Anaxagoras, who came so near to the Hylozoists both in 
point of time and in his conception of primary Being, is 
freer from their influence in regard to his conception of 
nature than is the comparatively late thinker Aristotle. 
Of the two, Anaxagoras is more of a mechanical physicist. 
For Aristotle is not without his relapses into the hoary 
theory of soul-endowed matter which as a principle he 
denies ; he is moved in that direction by a kind of 
atavistic tendency, which causes him to imagine " all things 
in a manner filled with soul" — while yet for him soul is 
a something that operates in accordance with purpose (cf. 
p. 171). And that the Deity is not for him the sole source 
of order and design is no more than what he says expressly 
himself where he mentions the final tendencies of Nature 
itself, sometimes using the very expression, " This is what 
Nature wills." But while Nature sometimes appears in the 
place of God, in such words as, " Nature does nothing in 
vain," there are other passages where God and Nature 
are presented in a combination reminding us of Spinoza's 
" Deus sive Natura." In " God and Nature do nothing in 
vain," the two are set side by side as factors of equal 
rank. It will be seen that we have not without reason 
spoken of the pantheistic features which are to be observed 
in Aristotle's representation of the way in which God is 
related to Nature and the world. 


We have, indeed, understated the case by saying that 
in the last-cited passage God and Nature are placed on an 
equal footing. Strange as it may seem, we ought to have 
spoken of a preponderance assigned to the nature-principle. 
" God and Nature " means for Aristotle the forces at work 
in nature, which are reverenced as divine, not Nature on 
the one side and on the other a self-existent and inde- 
pendently active Godhead. This is so for the simple 
reason that Aristotle most completely and emphatically 
denies to the pure and absolute Deity all work and action, 
and indeed all endeavour towards action, all will and there- 
fore all good and purposeful will. Efforts have been made 
to weaken the force of utterances which run so counter to 
ordinary religious ideas ; but the artificiality and nullity 
of such explanations have been demonstrated in the most 
convincing manner. 

For one thing, the grounds of these paradoxical deliver- 
ances are not unknown to us. That which seems to us 
a limitation of the Deity and of the divine power is 
regarded by Aristotle as a consequence of perfection. 
That which is absolutely perfect cannot work or act, 
because prior to and corresponding to all work and action 
there must be desire and longing, prior to desire and 
longing there must be defect and need. Human actions 
are means to obtain ends ; the Deity, perfect in itself, can 
strive after no goal or end outside itself. Again, in review- 
ing the series of virtues or moral excellences, Aristotle 
arrives at the result that in the being of the Deity there is 
no room for their exercise, nor therefore for their existence. 
This is true, not only of courage and continence — that is, 
the overcoming of dangers and temptations which could 
not exist for a perfect being — but also of justice, for the 
curious reason that this virtue implies the exchange of 
goods or some other business transaction. Indeed, good- 
ness itself, which Plato had identified with the divine 
principle, has no place in this ideal, at any rate in the 
sense of benevolence or love. Everything which provides 
human virtue with exercise and expression must be termed 
" unworthy and petty" when measured by the standard of 


the highest Being. We shall presently learn what remains 
over as the sole content of the divine life. 

First of all, however, we may here find place for the 
remark that Aristotle's theism, important as it may have 
been for the history of theology, has meant little or 
nothing for the religious life of mankind. It elevates the 
Deity to a height from which scarce a path leads down 
to the lowlands of humanity. Nowhere in this teaching 
about God is there any mention of a loving and com- 
passionate father, of a rewarding and punishing judge, nor 
even of a provident architect of the universe. In his 
desire to remove his God from even the remotest contact 
with human weakness, Aristotle condemns Him at the 
same time to complete sterility. That such a God does 
nothing and achieves nothing is true in yet another sense, 
a sense which one might almost say is fatal to Him as a 
living reality. 

3. But whence, we ask, comes this contradiction between 
execution and design ? " One lord and master " is set 
upon the throne of the universe. But the result is hardly 
other than if the throne had been left empty. Le roi r^gne, 
mais ne gouverne pas — even this formula of constitutional 
monarchy does not fairly represent the position assigned 
by Aristotle to the supreme ruler of the world. 

Two motives seem to have co-operated in producing 
this great contrast : the dread of any disturbance to the 
regular course of Nature, and the repugnance to all anthro- 
pomorphism. These are two highly estimable motives, 
the first of which, however, need have led no further than 
to that " denial of supernatural intervention " and that 
view as to the " divine source " of orderly njitural processes 
which we have already met with among the Hippocratics 
(cf. Vol. I. p. 311). But the two taken together and 
followed up with the utmost strictness lead beyond all 
theology and issue in agnosticism. Herbert Spencer's 
" Unknowable," the "neither knowing nor knowable One" 
of Plotinus (cf. Vol. III. p. 268), are the appropriate desig- 
nations of a God conceived as emptied of all anthropo- 
morphic qualifications. Aristotle has gone too far or not 


far enough. If he had proceeded in a less radical or in a 
still more radical manner, he might equally in either case 
have avoided an exposition which stamps his theology 
with the seal of the grotesque. 

On all mythology he boldly turned his back. He 
knows it only as a " mythical addition " or as a " mythical 
envelope " of the truth. But truly not much kernel is 
left out of all that husk ; for in every kind of doing, 
working, and willing, and in every kind of moral excellence, 
he detects a residue of anthropomorphism, and removes it 
with resolute, if gentle, hand from his picture of the Deity. 
Even the little that remains would not have been left if 
Aristotle had not here fallen short of strict consistency, 
had not, indeed, bidden defiance to his own definite de- 
clarations. All doing is denied to the Godhead, yet one 
kind of doing (-pdrTEiv) is yet conceded to it, namely, 
a reflective contemplation that fills it with beatitude. All 
action and production (7ro<£?v) is withheld from it ; yet it is 
the ultimate source of all heavenly and earthly movement, 
by exerting an overwhelming attraction while itself remains 
at rest. It is true that it is said to move the universe 
only as a loved object moves the lover (cf. p. 216). Thus 
Aristotle breaks through the self-imposed barrier at two 
points, more violently in the one case by removing " con- 
templation " from the category of doing, in the second case 
more surreptitiously. It is only by such ways as these — 
underhand ways, we might almost call them — that he 
gains the vision of the divine nature forbidden him by his 
own declared principles. 

4. Though we have here been unable to refrain from a 
somewhat trenchant criticism, we are yet very far removed 
from any desire to disparage the great thinker. His weak- 
nesses and inconsistencies appear, on closer examination, to 
be the hardly avoidable results of powers at war with each 
other. The scientific spirit was strong in Aristotle ; so, too, 
was his religious need. The two currents could not but 
run counter to each other. The formative impulse of his 
religious sense was opposed by the disintegrating force of 
his critical sense. It was inevitable that the conflict should 


come to some kind of an issue ; and it speaks well for 
Aristotle's psychical equipoise that neither contestant was 
forced to concede everything. If logical rigour suffered 
on the whole comparatively little, while the religious 
impulse was severely repressed, this is no more than was 
to be expected in a man who was a thinker first and an 
architect of religion afterwards. On the other hand, this 
arrest of religious developments, this impoverishment of 
the notion of God, make it easy for us to understand why 
the transcendental Deity towards which Aristotle's aim was 
directed came to be largely overgrown with elements of 
pantheism. Just because in Aristotle's system the Ruler 
of the world is so estranged from the world, because He 
is bound to it by only the faintest ties, because between 
Him and it, as has been rightly said, an "icy coldness" 
reigns, He can afford no adequate satisfaction to the 
philosopher's religious need. That is why he does not 
disdain to seek satisfaction where the systematic course of 
his thought, directed as it was towards the rooting up of 
Hylozoism, should have prevented him from seeking it — in 
Nature itself, its materials and its productions, conceived as 
governed throughout by divine forces, and animated with 

But in order to ibe completely just it is necessary to 
distinguish, still more carefully than we have yet done, 
between the object willed and the result achieved. Aris- 
totle's God was very far from being intended as a stop- 
gap. He was meant, on the contrary, to crown the edifice 
of thought, to form a bridge between ontology and natural 
science. In Him the notional or formal cause, the final 
cause, and the motive cause, were to meet in unity. As 
the most eminent historian of ancient philosophy has aptly 
remarked, the eternity of the world was to be combined 
"with its dependence upon an extra-mundane Deity," 
while a reference of the world's existence, order, or motion 
" to definite acts of the Godhead," conceived as events 
in time, would conflict with the principle that the world 
had no beginning. But when we ask how these great 
aims were carried out, Aristotle's utterances afford no 


satisfactory reply. To begin with, it is hard to understand 
how this Being, which, on the one hand, excites spatial 
movements, and, on the other, lives on in beatific self- 
contemplation, could be the supreme final Cause. Diffi- 
culties of no less seriousness are suggested by the assertion 
that the impulse to motion just spoken of has its origin 
in a yearning of the corporeal after the divine. The word 
" attraction," which we have used in this connexion, is to 
a certain extent misleading. For when we moderns speak 
of a physical attraction, the clearest-headed of us, at any 
rate, are consciously using a metaphor which is intended 
to describe the facts, not to explain them. It is otherwise 
with Aristotle. Explanation is his aim in all such cases. 
It is thus that at least Theophrastus, his successor in the 
school, understood the words "as a loved object" (p. 116). 
For, so understanding the expression, he could not with- 
hold the searching objection : " If a desire, especially when 
directed towards the best, does not come into being with- 
out an activity of the soul, then the bodies so moved must 
be themselves endowed with soul." Thus the intimate 
friend and disciple of the Stagirite charged him at that 
early date with the relapse into the theory of animated 
matter which has just been the object of our criticism. 

Belief in the gods was derived by Aristotle from two 
sources : he had regard to the impression produced upon 
early man partly by the celestial phenomena, their regu- 
larity and subservience to purpose, partly by psychic 
phenomena. In connexion with the latter, he draws atten- 
tion in his popular works to dream-messages and to 
revelations received by the soul at the point of death, at 
a time when it is severed from the outer world, and even 
from the body itself, to a greater degree than in sleep. 
Such messages, he says, have been acknowledged as the 
outcome of divine inspiration. This defence of theism is 
not met with in his systematic treatises. We have thus 
to choose between two alternatives. It may be that we 
have here a mere conjecture as to primitive theology, based, 
it may be added, on passages in the Homeric poems. Or 
else the view in question is one approved by the philosopher 


himself, though only at an early phase of his speculation, 
as is shown by the rationalistic conception of dreams in 
the formal treatises. We ourselves cannot accept this 
second hypothesis, though it is propounded by an author 
for whom we entertain the greatest respect. 

5, We are not sorry to have the present opportunity of 
calling attention to certain rules of method which are only 
too often left out of sight, especially when modern 
expositors desire to find their favourite views in Aristotle's 
writings. In cases of conflict, the treatises ought always 
to be preferred to the dialogues, which, precisely because 
they are popular works, often accommodate themselves to 
received opinion, and which are preserved to us only in 
fragments and without any indication of the persons 
speaking. Again, within the treatises themselves we ought 
carefully to distinguish between the systematic, conscien- 
tious development of a theme and obiter dicta, assertions 
and allusions interspersed in alien contexts, and thereby, 
likely enough, considerably altered in meaning. Nor can 
the Stagirite always bring himself to dispense with an 
argument favourable to the thesis he is for the moment 
defending, on the ground that the premisses from which it 
starts do not fully harmonize with his personal convictions. 
Sometimes, it is true, he silences his critical conscience, if 
we may say so, by the hypothetical form of his argument 
(" if, indeed, it is the fact that . . ."), or by an added quali- 
fication (" as people think," or " as it appears to be "). But 
whether he does so or not, his joy in the accumulation 
of proofs (cf. p. 114), his pleasure in the exercise of his 
dialectical skill, a wish to bury an opposing view under 
the number as well as the weight of objections, lastly, his 
respect for everything traditional, in which he so readily 
detects at least traces and rudiments of the truth — all this 
combines to make him not too fastidious in the choice of 
arguments, and causes him not infrequently to change his 
point of view. 

There is thus no more certain method of barring the 
way to an understanding of the genuine Aristotle than 
to forget completely all the circumstances just enumerated. 


to take all his utterances, however casual, and lay them on 
the scale, follow them to their extreme consequences, and 
then, in case of discrepancy between this mode of exegesis 
and Aristotle's plain and unambiguous statement of prin- 
ciples, to decide for the former. The monstrous results 
to which this negation of method may mislead are well 
illustrated by an example taken from this very province of 
theology which is our present subject. By way of proving 
that Aristotle does not deny all doing and working to his 
Deity, reference has been made, among other things, to 
a sentence in the " Rhetoric " which runs thus : " The 
daemonic is either a deity or the work of a deity ; he, 
therefore, who believes in as much as one daemon neces- 
sarily assumes the existence of gods " (notice the plural). 
This is simply an abbreviated repetition of an argument by 
which Plato represents Socrates as defending himself and 
his daemon ; Aristotle merely adduces it as one among 
many examples of a particular mode of proof, that by 
definition. To draw from such passages inferences as to 
the content of Aristotelian doctrines may well be called 
the height of arbitrary caprice. 

6. Of the proofs which Aristotle gives for the existence 
of God, one, the teleological proof, or proof from design, 
has already been treated by us in advance. We have said 
enough already of the inadequate way in which it is 
worked out, and of the contradiction between the task laid 
upon the Deity and the insufficiency for that task of the 
divine nature as conceived by Aristotle himself. But 
apart from these blemishes, this proof is doubtless the most 
important of them all (cf. Vol. I. pp. 364, 365). 

Aristotle entered upon another path when he endea- 
voured to prove the existence of an Absolute contrasted 
with the relative which is alone encountered in human 
experience. Where there is a better — so runs the most 
forcible of his arguments on this point — there must also 
be a best. Since, then, the totality of existing beings 
reveals to us a rising scale, a progress from the less to 
the more perfect, we have the right to infer a culmination 
or final term of this series, an unconditionally best. Here 


the philosopher has taken that step out of the world of 
relativity, the legitimacy of which will be contested by 
all those who believe human knowledge to be confined 
to that relative world, and every glimpse of the Absolute 
denied us. We notice, in passing, an objection which very 
readily occurs to the mind. There is just as much reason, 
it may be urged, to infer an absolutely bad as an abso- 
lutely good. If there is a scale of goodness, a similar scale 
of badness is equally undeniable ; and the existence of 
absolute evil is as much proved by the one as that of 
absolute good by the other. The same line of proof which, 
followed upwards, leads to the Deity, followed downwards* 
leads to an evil world-principle, whether we give it the 
name of devil or any other name. Aristotle is here 
opposed, not only by the adherents of dualistic religions 
such as Zoroastrianism, but also by his own master, who 
in at least one phase of his development set an evil world- 
soul by the side of the good (cf. Vol. III. p. 213). 

A third argument has no direct connexion with the 
Absolute; the nucleus of it is rather an attempt to solve 
the problem of the origin of motion. The existence of an 
Unmoved Mover is supported by a proof which, though 
not entirely without plausibility, has little strictness, and is 
only put forward by Aristotle himself under reserve. It 
is, says he, a " probable, not to say necessary, assumption," 
that of the three hypotheses which are possible in relation 
to this matter, not two alone are realized, but the third 
as well. Experience acquaints us with moved movers and 
moved non-movers ; how, then, should the third feasible 
combination (the purely negative unmoved non-mover 
being legitimately ignored), that is, the Unmoved Mover, 
be lacking ? The following examples may be added as 
explanatory of the first two cases. We set a sphere in 
motion ; while rolling it strikes another sphere, and puts 
an end to its previous state of rest. Or we may cause 
the first sphere to rotate on a fixed axis, when without 
exerting any appreciable influence on anything else it will 
be itself in movement. In Nature winds and streams play 
the first of these parts ; rotating heavenly bodies the 


second. In addition, then, to the moved mover and the 
moved non-mover, so iUustrated by us, the reahzation of 
the third possibility, the Unmoved Mover, is demanded — 
in the interests, so we shall best suppose, of thought- 
construction. The demand is satisfied, on the large scale, 
by Aristotle's God. The high-pitched requirements of the 
Stagirite were obviously not met by such instances on 
a small scale as the attraction of a magnet, which he 
regarded as a mere curiosity. 

7. The Unmoved Mover is presented to us not merely 
as a postulate of logical symmetry, but also as an indis- 
pensable aid towards the physical explanation of the 
world. " God keeps as still as a mouse, and therefore the 
universe revolves round Him:" so wrote Gottfried Keller 
in jest ; and the words might supply a motto for the 
doctrine of the First Mover. The universe being conceived 
as without beginning or end in time, the motions which go 
on in it without ceasing must depend upon some ultimate 
mover, unless an infinite regress is to be assumed, and 
this is deemed impossible. Conceivably the ultimate 
cause of motion might be self-moving ; this hypothesis is 
stated and discussed at some length, but finally rejected 
without strict disproof. For it can hardly be considered 
as refuted by a reference to the ideal distinction which in 
the case of the self-moving can be drawn between the 
active and the passive factor. In all this Aristotle is 
under the influence of Plato, from whom he borrows his 
leading thought that the origin of all movement is psychic; 
he desires, however, to formulate this thought more sharply, 
and at the same time to materialize, in a certain sense, the 
psychic factor which is in question. Evidence of such a 
desire appears in his attempt to localize the Unmoved 
Mover in a particular part of space, whereby His purely 
spiritual nature, maintained elsewhere by Aristotle with so 
much earnestness, suffers a manifest infringement. 

This attempt, however, to prove that ultimate origin 
of motion enters into ultimate connexion with the thesis, 
which we have already discussed, that the combination 
of ideas, Unmoved Mover, must be represented in the- 


Cosmos equally with the other two kindred combinations 
•which are there realized on a large scale. It is not 
surprising that the two lines of thought lead to the 
conclusion that in the Unmoved Mover we have to reco?- 


nize that first source of all motion which was vainly sought 
elsewhere. This result needed, on the one hand, to be 
supported by considerations of still more comprehensive 
generality ; on the other, to be followed into its conse- 
quences. The two operations sometimes proceed simul- 

The highest generality is found in the doctrine that all 
becoming — in Aristotelian terms, all transition from poten- 
tial to actual existence^ — is effected by something actual. 
As examples, the generation of one human being by 
another is mentioned, and also the training to professional 
skill, as of one musician by another. This doctrine is then 
applied to the supreme principle of the universe. It is 
inferred that the essence of this principle must be complete 
actuality or pure energy. For if its nature included in addi- 
tion any merely potential element, that is, any element con- 
ditioned by and dependent on other things, then its complete 
efficiency and unceasing operation would be endangered. 
If, then, that supreme world-principle is identical with the 
first cause of motion, the latter, too, must be divested of all 
potentiality if it is to act without failure or intermission. 
In order, therefore, not to be tainted with potentiality, the 
essence of the Unmoved Mover must be free from any 
material element. Hence, too, it follows that it must also 
be free from multiplicity. In this is included the non- 
possession of parts ; in other words, it must be pure spirit. 
His life is thought ; but this thought can only be directed 
towards the best, that is, Himself; and this self-contempla- 
tion fills Him with the highest bliss. What we men feel 
once and again, in favoured moments, that and more is 
felt by the Deity perpetually. The long-spun-out proof 
becomes finally a hymn of praise, and ends with the asse- 
veration : " On this Supreme Principle heaven and the 
whole of Nature depend." 

8. But more than one reader has, perhaps, long been 


ready to interrupt us with a string of questions. What 
about the starting-point of this long chain of proofs ? 
Whence the philosopher's confident certainty as to the 
effects which he finds himself compelled to ascribe to so 
extraordinary a cause ? Granted that only the Unmoved 
Mover could guarantee us the eternity of the celestial 
movements which we perceive, how do we know that these 
movements have, in fact, existed from all eternity, and 
that they will endure for ever ? Aristotle's mode of justify- 
ing this affirmation is certainly not one which we moderns 
would be likely to follow in a similar case. He believes 
in the revolution, without beginning or end, of the one 
heaven, which revolution is caused by the Unmoved 
Mover, and in its turn causes all the movements which 
occur in the universe. But this one heaven and its revo- 
lution are of equally fictitious character. In the place of 
that one heaven modern science gives us individual 
heavenly bodies, groups and systems of stars, lying in the 
most diverse planes, and situated at the most varying 
distances from us and from each other. But this trans- 
formation of Aristotle's picture of the universe, however 
important in another respect, has no decisive bearing on 
the question before us. It has, at any rate, no significance 
beyond the fact that, whereas Aristotle speaks of one 
eternal and uniform motion, we arc acquainted with nothing 
of the kind, but find multiplicity taking its place in this 
field, as in so many others. 

The telescope and the spectroscope have resolved the 
one heaven into countless worlds, and replaced its change- 
less, homogeneous character by a variegated succes- 
sion of changing states. We believe we can distinguish 
between worlds now in the make from worlds made long 
ago and not subject to perceptible change during the 
present period ; these, again, we distinguish from worlds 
now coming to an end. But though the barrier between 
Aristotle's unchanging heavenly region and his ever- 
changing sublunary world has thus been broken down, the 
true heart of the problem under consideration remains 
untouched. The question of the origin of movement 


compelled Aristotle to venture on the boldest of hypotheses 
simply because he chose to raise it. We set narrower 
bounds to our curiosity. Motion — the molecular motions 
of which Aristotle knew nothing, as well as the motion of 
perceptible masses — is included for us in the primal endow- 
ment of matter. We do not, indeed, answer the problem 
as to the origin of movement ; but neither do we count it 
a special or peculiar mystery. It remains for us shrouded 
in that same impenetrable obscurity which envelops the 
whole of the problems relating to this subject, which are 
alike inaccessible to human intelligence. 

We do not ask how the movement of matter originated, 
any more than we inquire into the origin of matter itself 
or of its other attributes. The position of the Atomists 
was the same, and so too, in essentials, was that of all the 
earlier nature-philosophers. But in course of time, misled 
by the deceptive appearance of rest presented by material 
objects of moderate size, and forsaken by the genius which 
had prompted the surmises of a Heraclitus or a Leucippus, 
thinkers tore asunder what, in fact, is always linked 
together — matter and its endowment of force. Then, and 
not till then, thought found itself faced by a problem which 
could only be answered by the most reckless conjectures 
(cf. Vol. I. pp. 343, 344). We have arrived at a stage of 
greater maturity and moderation ; with more humility and 
less pretension we decline to pronounce one part of these 
riddles more capable of solution than another part ; and 
we do not assign to human wisdom the task of lifting the 
veil which covers all ultimate beginnings. 

We have already referred in general terms to Aristotle's 
localizing of the Unmoved Mover, and also to the manner 
in which the latter was supposed by him to generate the 
cosmic movements. If we wish for more accurate ideas 
on these two points, it is necessary to take into considera- 
tion the astronomical doctrine of our philosopher. As, for 
Aristotle, the Deity is hardly anything more than the 
First Mover, while the latter operates through the medium 
of the star-spheres and the subordinate gods or spirits which 
guide them in their revolutions, we are not, in turning to 
this new subject, leaving the field of his theological doctrines. 



aristotle's theology. 


I. In astronomical as in mathematical subjects Aristotle 
does not regard himself as a specialist. When he treats 
of them he refers oftener than elsewhere, as we have 
already remarked, to the judgment of " experts " or " com- 
petent authorities" (cf. p. 131). In this field, therefore, 
he has less of the glory of a path-finding discoverer than 
in any other. His failures in this province will be viewed 
differently according as attention is directed to their 
causes or to their effects. It is difficult to repress the 
feeling of resentment which rises when we observe that 
errors previously attacked and shaken were, mainly by 
Aristotle's authority, established anew and maintained in 
existence for thousands of years (cf. pp. 58, 122, and Vol. 
III. p. 265). But we shall find ourselves moved to greater 
lenity of judgment when we realize the difficulties which 
oppose the introduction of an isolated, even if highly pro- 
gressive, innovation in the general fabric of science. What 
we have here in mind is the geocentric theory, which had 
been abandoned by the later Pythagoreans and by Plato 
in his extreme old age {cf. Vol. I. pp. 113, 114; Vol. III. 
p. 221), but which was revived by Plato's pupil. 

One is at first surprised at the magnitude of the self- 
contradiction into which Aristotle falls. He by no means 
bars his mind against the progress made by specialists' 
investigations. He knows and approves of the calculations 
which estimate the earth's circumference at four hundred 


thousand stadia— an amount of roughly fifty thousand 
miles, somewhat less than double the true figure. But 
this circumference, to use his own words, is " small in com- 
parison with the magnitude of the other heavenly bodies," 
and " means practically nothing in relation to the whole 
fabric of the heavens." Thus, in regard to this subject, he 
expresses himself almost exactly as we are accustomed to 
do when we speak of our abode as a speck in the universe. 
He cannot refrain from mordant irony when he alludes 
to the opinion of those who in older times " supposed the 
rest of the heavens to have been built up around this place 
because of its dignity." Yet, in spite of all this, he held 
with absolute rigour to the central position of the earth, 
and to its condition of rest, denying to it even the rotary 
movement round its own axis. The impression produced 
upon us at first is that an heirloom of the earliest science 
has been retained, though the foundations on which it 
rests have been abandoned. We can hardly believe our 
eyes when we see Aristotle applying the same severity 
of censure, first to the immoderate exaggerations of the 
earth's circumference previously current, and then to the 
inference drawn from the opposite view, " The earth is 
a star among stars." 

This remarkable polemic must engage our attention 
for a moment. It is directed, half against the aged Plato, 
and half against the Pythagoreans. The late Pythagorean 
doctrine last mentioned by us, one of the boldest feats of 
emancipation ever achieved by human genius, is quoted 
by a great thinker merely to be condemned. And this 
adverse judgment is founded upon the consideration that 
its authors "have set reasoning above facts." A stronger 
instance of unconscious self-directed irony can hardly be 
imagined. This is the language of the man who in his 
own scientific practice has so often placed dialectic above 
experience, whose favourite indulgence — remember his 
doctrine of the elements — is the building of the most 
reckless a priori constructions. What a warning is supplied 
by the following judicial sentence which so heavily recoils 
upon the judge ! The opponents of the geocentric theory 


are said to deny the central position of the earth " because 
they do not think the earth worthy of it ; they believe the 
most dignified position due to the most dignified body ; 
and this is not the earth, but fire." A priori inferences of 
this kind may sometimes serve the interests of the most 
salutary truths ; in any case, it ill becomes Aristotle to 
despise them, for he continually operates with prejudices 
of precisely similar character. He applies this very predi- 
cate of dignity to movement in an upward direction ; he 
is never tired of basing theories on the perfection of the 
circle and the sphere. The strangest thing, however, is 
the fact that this sage, who is raised so high above the 
fundamental presuppositions of the geocentric doctrine, 
undertook to defend that doctrine, and indeed to found it 

It was natural and even inevitable that the earth 
should be assigned a position of special privilege at the 
centre of the universe so long as the stars were regarded 
as sparks in the heavens, and the heavens themselves as 
a cover for the earth — so long, in brief, as the " infinite 
earth " was everything and the heavens as good as nothing. 
But when this relation was replaced by its contrary, how 
absurd it seems to us that any one should continue to 
imagine the immeasurably great as circling round a central 
body of comparatively insignificant size ! 

2. But here it is fitting to recall the " mitigating circum- 
stances " (cf. p. 64) which arc calculated to modify our 
judgment on this sin against science. In the first place, 
while for many centuries Aristotle's authority was the 
main bulwark of the geocentric delusion, he was not 
alone in falling under its spell. His great contemporary, 
Eudoxus of Cnidos, one of the most eminent astronomers 
of all time, shared that error ; nor could his belief have 
been due to the influence of the philosopher, who in these 
matters was not to be regarded as more than an educated 
outsider. This circumstance by itself is enough to prove 
that the geocentric theory possessed an intrinsic and power- 
ful vitality, independent of all individual caprice. The 
same conclusion is indicated with still greater clearness 
VOL. IV. (j 


by a fact of uncommon significance in the history of science, 
to which we may be allowed to make here an anticipatory 
reference. A century after Aristarchus of Samos, who, as 
the creator of the heliocentric theory, may rightly be named 
the Copernicus of antiquity (cf. Vol. I. p. 98), Seleucus 
of Seleucia revived that doctrine, which had so far met 
with scant respect, and supported it by a series of proofs 
of whose nature we are ignorant. But he, too, failed to 
receive his just reward. The true doctrine, which had now 
been twice enunciated, but not yet strictly proved, was 
again condemned, and that by Hipparchus {circa 150 B.C.), 
the most famous astronomer of the day. The heliocentric 
theory was now regarded as finally disposed of. It was 
buried, and remained entombed till at last the immortal 
capitulary of Thorn awoke it from apparent death to new 
and imperishable life. 

The true strength of the geocentric view rested on the 
circumstance that the opposed theory, to use the language 
of Paul Tannery, " involved an immeasurable step forward 
from the point of view of mechanics and physics, but 
offered no real advantage from the geometric point of 
view, beyond which the astronomy of the ancients did not 
advance." Whether the earth was to be allowed to revolve 
round the sun or the sun round the earth made no differ- 
ence to the relative positions of the two bodies. Suppose 
I am sitting in a railway train, watching another on the 
adjacent track. Whether the truth be that my train is 
moving in one direction, or that the other train is moving 
in the opposite direction, the result is absolutely the same 
as regards the relation of the two trains to each other, 
though very different when we consider their relation to 
the surrounding country. Thus the scientific imagination 
found itself called upon to perform an unheard-of feat, 
while no sufficient reward was held out for the effort. But 
suppose the effort made, great as it must necessarily be, 
and the bonds of sense-illusion broken; through, another 
and no less difficult task remained. In obedience to the 
demands of thought, the rest which the senses show us 
has been declared a mere appearance, and a motion, non- 


existent for the senses, has been proclaimed as the reality. 
Still obeying the same demands of thought, we now look 
for the appropriate consequences of motion — and we do 
not find them. Suppose a fixed star viewed even at 
different seasons and thus from widely separated points 
of the earth's presumed orbit, no sensible or measurable 
change was to be observed in the angular distances (absence 
of an annual parallax). The magnitude of the distances 
cancelled the effect of the change of position. This ex- 
planation is possible to us now that the perfected instru- 
ments and methods of the present day have succeeded 
to some extent in overcoming the difficulties which here 
present themselves. But for the majority of the ancient 
astronomers, who did not see so far as Aristarchus and 
his small band of followers, the inference was almost 
irresistible that the observer is always at the same point 
of space, in other words, that the earth remains eternally 
at rest. How far removed was such a view from an 
acknowledgment of the reality — the restless threefold 
movement of our planet, which turns on its axis, revolves 
round the sun, and journeys through space in company 
with the whole solar system and a number of neighbouring 
stars ! 

3. Turning now to Aristotle's attempt to explain the 
celestial phenomena, we must endeavour, in the first place, 
not to recall modern analogies, but to keep them out of 
sight. For not a few ancient thinkers, and for none of 
them more than for Aristotle, there yawned an impassable 
chasm between the things of earth and the things of 
heaven. By an explanation of celestial phenomena we 
understand the referring of them to universal forces which 
prevail on the earth as elsewhere. Such a thought was alien 
to the mind of the Stagirite. Suppose that in his day 
the necessary conditions for Newton's great intellectual 
feat had been fulfilled, that, indeed, the feat had already 
been performed, and its result made known to our philo- 
sopher. Even then he could hardly have reconciled 
himself with the Newtonian doctrine. For his aim was 
not the identification of celestial and terrestrial forces, but 


rather their widest possible severance. But while to this 
extent his attitude was the precise opposite of the modern 
scientific spirit, the same cannot be said of his endeavour 
to set regularity in the place of irregularity, order in the 
place of apparent chaos. His mind here moved in the 
paths which had been opened up by the Pythagoreans and 
trodden by Plato. According to trustworthy records, 
the last-named philosopher formulated the fundamental 
problem of astronomical research in the question : " By what 
hypothesis of uniform and orderly movements can the 
actually observed movements of the planets be accounted 
for .? " 

In this statement of the problem there lay a summons 
to consider movements conflicting with the canon thus set 
up as compound, and to analyze them into factors which 
should not so conflict. We moderns would add that the 
investigation ought to proceed tentatively, and be con- 
tinued till it led to combinations of which the elements 
are known effects of known forces, already exemplified 
elsewhere. But a reservation of this kind, springing as it 
does from the desire to assimilate celestial processes to 
terrestrial, had no influenee upon the ancients ; indeed, the 
sound canons of research were for them still further falsified 
by the intrusion of a peremptory prejudice in favour of 
purely circular paths. It became, then, their main pre- 
occupation to devise arrangements and modes of action by 
which, out of strictly circular motions there might arise 
motions not strictly circular. These endeavours were the 
main source of the sphere theory (cf. Vol. III. p. 221). 
This theory was bound to undergo ever-increasing elabora- 
tion. As observation improved in exactness, and as at the 
same time the discovery of apparent anomalies {i.e. real 
irregularities as well as mere deviations from strictly 
circular paths) became more frequent, the more exacting 
grew the demands made upon the combined action of the 
spheres, and the greater the number of them. Eudoxus was 
satisfied with twenty-six planetary spheres, but Callippus 
required as many as thirty-three ; while Aristotle found 
himself unable to manage with fewer than fifty-five, though 


he was prepared, on certain suppositions, to abate the 
number to forty-seven. Thus the theory became more and 
more complicated, and finally collapsed under the weight 
of this superstructure. Aristotle, as we have just seen, 
contributed his share to this result. We have now to 
describe his relation to the theory as a whole. 

4. Aristotle was influenced not only by the example of 
his master and of eminent specialists, but also by peculiar 
considerations, sometimes of truly wonderful nature. Free 
motion in space was, he supposed, impossible for the 
heavenly bodies because of their spherical shape, which 
by a legitimate generalization had been deduced from the 
phenomena of the lunar phases and of eclipses. Nature 
"does nothing in vain and without a cause" — indeed, in 
some passages on the subject, he even ascribes " foresight " 
to Nature. If, then, the stars had been intended to move 
freely. Nature would have provided them with organs of 
motion — with extremities, we may suppose ! But while 
the spherical form is the most unsuited to forward motion, 
it is the fittest of all for rest and for the rotation of a body 
on its own axis. Strangely enough, the possibility that 
a rotating body may at the same time roll is ignored in 
this discussion. Now, the great instance of rotation is 
supplied by the heaven of the fixed stars ; and the other 
celestial spheres are to be conceived as formed after its 
pattern. To these spheres are attached the seven wander- 
ing stars, that is, the sun and moon, as well as the five 
planets visible to the naked eye. The order is : Saturn, 
Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury, Sun, Moon. 

Aristotle was not a specialist in astronomy ; and it was 
not without hesitancy and reservations that he put forward 
his proposal to increase the number of the spheres. That 
which led him to this step was one of the fundamental 
thoughts of his cosmical dynamics : that the motive 
impulse proceeds from the "Unmoved Mover" residing 
beyond the celestial spheres, and is propagated to the 
centre. To make this possible, the totality of the sphere- 
groups must be materially connected and linked up into 
a mechanical unity. But this postulate created for him 


a difficulty unknown to his predecessors. Each inner 
group of spheres is turned round by the nearest group 
outside it. Some of the impulses so received help to 
explain the observed facts ; others are in contradiction with 
them. In order to nullify this second set of impulses, 
some means must be devised of eliminating them. Such 
a means was found by Aristotle in additional spheres, 
invented for the purpose, which he called " backward- 
rolling," or " retrograde," and to which he assigned the 
office of annulling or compensating the superfluous or 
obstructive impulses communicated by each outer to the 
next inner group of spheres. It is not necessary for our 
purpose to enter into the details of this supplementary 

5. At this point, however, a riddle presents itself which 
it is extremely difficult to solve. What are we to make 
of the fact that the predecessors of Aristotle did not know 
or did not heed the difficulty which called forth the theory 
of accessory spheres "> Some of the most eminent spe- 
cialists of our day answer the question as follows. For 
Eudoxus and Callippus the planetary spheres were not 
what they were for Aristotle, material, if transparent, 
bodies. They used them solely as an aid to imagination, 
as a means of illustration. Their sphere-theory — so it is 
contended — meant nothing more than that the movements 
of the stars are performed in the same way as if each of 
the wandering luminaries were fixed within a group of 
spheres, and received through their medium the motive 
impulses presupposed in the theory. If their account of 
the matter had been anything more than a mere device 
of exposition, if it had involved an assumption as to the 
facts, then, it is thought, those inquirers must have been 
confronted by the same difficulty as Aristotle, and driven 
to similar attempts at a solution. But what they aimed 
at, so we are now told, was not in any degree an explana- 
tion, but a description, a means of representing the play 
of forces upon each planet. Their doctrine was purely 
geometrical till Aristotle interpreted it as a physical 
hypothesis, or, in other words, grossly misunderstood it. 


We should be glad to bow to a decision proceeding 
from high contemporary authority ; but we are unable to 
overcome certain weighty objections which present them- 
selves. Admitted, what indeed is not easy to admit, that 
the Stagirite was capable of so gross a misunderstanding; 
admitted, that the man who in these discussions so fre- 
quently appeals to the judgment of the specialists, of the 
" mathematicians " who are the " stronger " in this branch 
of knowledge, took in truth so httle pains to discover their 
true meaning ; — even these far-reaching admissions by no 
means settle the question. The men whose theories he so 
completely misunderstood were his contemporaries, com- 
panions, and fellow-students, bound to him by close personal 
ties (Callippus is spoken of as one of his quite intimate 
friends), and yet we are to suppose that not one of them 
was both willing and able to set him right. Again, there 
was one of his immediate pupils, Eudemus, whose know- 
ledge of these subjects was almost unequalled. The 
learned author of the " History of Astronomy " was, next 
to Theophrastus, Aristotle's favourite pupil ; and a credible 
tradition states that he narrowly missed being nominated 
by the master as his successor in the school. He, too, we 
are asked to believe, never ventured on a word of remon- 
strance against Aristotle's misconception, or, if he did, 
failed to make the slightest impression. Again, the sphere- 
theory, in all the forms in which it was stated, met with 
vigorous censure and penetrating criticism. Among its 
active critics was Sosigenes, the contemporary of Julius 
Caesar and his helper in the work of calendar-reform. 
Concerning this astronomer, we learn from an extensive 
fragment of the Commentary of Simplicius {circa 530 A.D.) 
that he subjected the sphere-theory, as set forth by 
Eudoxus, Callippus, and Aristotle, to severe, perhaps too 
severe, judgment. We know, too, that he made a special 
study of Aristotle's " retrograde spheres," and composed a 
monograph on the subject. But he did not refer by as 
much as a syllable to any misunderstanding on Aristotle's 
part. We need not dwell, be it remarked by the way, on 
the question whether Aristotle misunderstood his master 


Plato along with the others, or whether Plato himself may 
be supposed to have wrongly interpreted the hints which 
he possibly received from Eudoxus. We come to the 
last and most important consideration. Not long after 
Aristotle's time the doctrine of concentric spheres was 
radically modified by ApoUonius of Perga (born about 
260 B.C.), and again, about a century later, by Hipparchus 
{excentric spheres, epicycles). But the planetary spheres 
survived, still conceived as actual physical objects. Nor 
was this only in popular belief and in the pseudo-science 
of astrology. Here, indeed, we might with some show of 
justice urge the possibility of crude misconstruction, though 
ail the probabilities are against the hypothesis. But 
exact science and the history of exact science adhered 
immovably to the same view. This fidelity was shared 
even by Claudius Ptolemaeus (about 1 50 A.D.), who gathered 
together and gave final form to the astronomical and 
geographical researches of antiquity. This great sys- 
tematist treats the doctrine of the celestial spheres with 
great thoroughness. He enters into long discussions of 
their nature, their relative positions, their mode of attach- 
ment. But he lets fall not the slenderest hint that the 
planetary spheres had ever been understood in a different 
and purely ideal sense. However highly we appraise the 
influence of Aristotle's authority, it would be attributing 
impossibilities to it to suppose that by its means an earlier 
and fundamentally different view of the subject concerned 
was wiped out for all future time without leaving a trace 

The following is the most we feel able to concede to 
the distinguished specialists whom we here find ourselves 
obliged to contradict. It may be a legitimate supposition 
that with other great virtues of a researcher Eudoxus 
combined an unusual measure of modesty. He may 
possibly have regarded all that he seemed to have dis- 
covered about " celestial mechanics " as valid only under 
reservation ; he may never have fully overcome doubts 
that rose in his mind touching the absolute certainty of 
his conclusions on particular objective facts. He may then 



have silenced such doubts by the reflexion that even if 
it be denied to the human mind to achieve unconditional 
certitude on the mechanism of celestial motions, still the 
correct representation of the motive impulses acting on 
each separate planet must possess and retain an independ- 
ent value. Thus the sphere-theory which he elaborated 
may have come to be regarded by him in a great and 
perhaps preponderant degree as a faithful portrayal of the 
forces at work, though, as an explanatory hypothesis, it 
remained subject to a residue of scepticism. For the 
ascertainment of exhaustive truth on the co-operation or 
counter-operation of the different sphere-groups connected 
with each planet may conceivably have remained for him 
a problem hardly capable of solution. In the transition, 
further, from Eudoxus to Aristotle, from the precisely 
calculating and soberly critical mathematician to the 
philosopher in quest of a full and absolute understanding 
of the universe, some shifting of accent, if we may use 
the term, may have taken place with regard to these 

6. We return to the fundamental ideas of Aristotle's 
cosmical dynamics to which we have already referred. 
The original home and source of all motive forces is to 
be found, according to him, beyond the sphere of heaven. 
This source, the Deity, as Unmoved Mover, must be con- 
ceived as at once a purely spiritual being and as occupy- 
ing a residence in space. For " beyond," in connexion 
with objects situated in space, must have a spatial meaning ; 
though Aristotle will not admit this, and insists that the 
existence of space is limited by the celestial sphere. It 
would be labour lost to endeavour the solution of this 
inconsistency. The Stagirite has simply failed to effect 
a satisfactory reconciliation between the primeval ideas of 
popular religion, which he cannot bring himself to sacrifice, 
and his own more refined comprehension. Instead, he 
assigns to his one spiritual God, in whom the " gods " 
dwelling in the " broad heaven " have been absorbed, not 
altogether without residue as we shall shortly see, a place 
corresponding to his own cosmologicai system. Coming 


now to the operation of the First Mover upon the sphere 
of heaven or of the fixed stars, we find it not a little 
strange that this influence is based upon contact. We can- 
not understand, in the first place, what meaning is to be 
given to the word " contact " when it is applied to an 
immaterial being. The difficulty, too, is not made any the 
less by the representation of this contact as one-sided — 
the Deity touches the heavens, but the heavens do not 
touch the Deity. But we have little need to dwell on this 
point, since Aristotle has left no room for doubt as to 
what was his real aim. It is clear from his explanations 
on this head that the expression borrowed from the realm 
of matter was in this context intended merely to denote 
the share possessed by local proximity in the operations 
of the Unmoved Mover. Greater difficulties are reserved 
for us by the question, which now arises, of how this 
operation, compared as it is with the influence exerted by 
a loved or desired object upon the lover or desirer, can 
cause the rotary movement of the celestial sphere. We 
cannot at first resist the impression that, in this case, as 
in any other, the loved or desired object must be the goal 
of the motion which it provokes — that this motion, in other 
words, must be one of approach to its exciting cause. But 
the rotation of the celestial sphere leaves every part of it 
just as near to and just as far from the Unmoved Mover 
as it was before the impulse to motion was received. That 
impulse may be said to have failed of its original aim. 

We moderns are here reminded of the scientific explana- 
tion of planetary movements, of that co-operation by which 
tangential momentum and the force of gravitation produce 
a resultant curve. There is, in fact, one point of agreement 
between the two explanations. In both cases a pair of 
forces come into play. But Aristotle is by no mean think- 
ing of two motions so compounded as to give rise to a 
third. What he has in his mind is rather this. The 
influence of the First Mover — which, by the way, has not 
been exerted once for all, but is permanently active and 
ever renewed — consists in an impulse or stimulus towards 
motion. The rotation is the response to this stimulus. 


There are two reasons why this is so. The heaven, 
possessing the most perfect, in Aristotle's opinion, of all 
forms, the spherical, possesses with it a tendency to move 
in the most perfect of plane figures, the circle. Forced 
from the state of rest, it passes to the one kind of motion 
which is in accordance with its nature. But, apart from 
the spherical form of the heaven, the same result is arrived 
at by the following consideration. The stimulus in question 
can primarily produce only a movement in the widest sense 
of the word- — that is, a change, But, of all changes, change 
of place or motion holds the first or highest rank, and, of 
all movements, movement in a circle. The heaven, there- 
fore, as the most august of corporeal things, must, if acted 
upon at all, engage in just this kind of movement. It is 
thus, we believe, that we have to understand Aristotle's 
theory of the First Mover and the rotation of the heaven 
of the fixed stars effected by him. We base our view 
partly on Aristotle's explicit statements in this connexion, 
partly on a consideration of his general teachings. 

7. While the sphere of the fixed stars receives its 
impulse to motion direct from the Unmoved Mover, the 
remaining spheres receive theirs through the mediation of 
special beings, who may be called subordinate gods, daemons, 
or better, sphere-spirits. This hypothesis makes a breach 
in the monotheism towards which Aristotle pressed, and, 
indeed, reminds us of fetichism. How, we ask, did he 
arrive at it ? The answer to this question is supplied by 
his general view, derived from primitive ideas, of celestial 
things, which he sets in sharp contrast with all that is 
earthly and subject to change, and in discussing which he 
by no means avoids the use of the word "divine." Thus 
he expressly censures the view which holds the stars to 
be purely corporeal entities. I"or him they are beings 
endowed with soul. In plain terms, he attributes to them 
life and also activity, so distinguishing them at once from 
the purely passive inorganic world of matter, and from a 
Deity ever at rest. The star-souls, or star-gods, so postu- 
lated, became for him sphere-souls, or sphere-gods, probably 
for the reason that each of the wanderinsf stars concerned 


receives its motive impulses from the joint operation of 
several spheres, and it seemed illegitimate to represent 
different and in part conflicting impulses as proceeding 
from one and the same god-like being. Thus the sphere- 
spirits are simply the star-spirits, or star-gods, each resolved 
into a plurality. To us this blend of science and fetichism 
seems highly odd; but not all ages have judged in this 
way. As late as in the " Cosmographia " of Johannes 
Kepler, the " spirits that move the planets round " are 
still playing an important part ! 

But while each planetary sphere is presided over by its 
own sphere-spirit, the unnumbered hosts of the fixed stars, 
being all served by one sphere, must dispense with the aid 
of these minor divinities. The resulting want of symmetry 
in the distribution of the spheres and the divine agents 
which control them — here a vast multitude of stars attached 
to a single sphere, there each separate star moved by 
several spheres and sphere-spirits — great as it is in itself, 
becomes still more extraordinary when we go into further 
detail. It was not even possible to assert or represent as 
tenable the hypothesis that the number of spheres increases 
continually from the periphery to the centre. Quite the 
contrary : the observed facts of astronomy made it neces- 
sary to assign the greatest number to the planets of the 
middle region, and the smallest number to the innermost 
and furthest removed from the circumference, namely, 
the sun and the moon. Not a little pained astonishment 
is hereby caused to our philosopher. These anomalies 
gravely offend his sense of symmetry and harmony. But 
even here, as so often elsewhere, the inexhaustible resources 
of his dialectic do not leave him in the lurch. 

Very simple and speedy is his method of overcoming 
the first of the objections which here present themselves. 
The sphere of heaven, which carries and moves the count- 
less fixed stars, is placed nearest to the " best," that is, to 
the Unmoved Mover. The force exerted by the latter — 
so we may read Aristotle's thought — is therefore here at 
its strongest. It reaches this sphere as yet intact, having 
lost none of its power on the way ; here, therefore, it may 


be supposed to perform the mightiest of its tasks. The 
second difficulty is removed by a comparison borrowed 
from the province of human hygiene, a comparison in 
respect of which it is not easy either for author or for reader 
to maintain strict seriousness. The wandering luminaries 
are compared to different types of human beings. Some of 
these (corresponding to the outer planets which are near 
the heaven of the fixed stars) have constitutionally so large 
a measure of health and activity that they need little, if 
any, help from dietary rules or athletics — say, a short walk 
taken regularly. Others, again (with whom the middle 
planets are compared), must be at pains to remedy the 
sluggishness of their bodies by strenuous exercises, by 
running, wrestling, gymnastics, and so on. Lastly, we 
come to individuals who would find even the combined 
application of all such aids towards lightness of movement 
quite inadequate, who would therefore renounce the 
attempt, and who in no circumstances could rise above 
imperfect achievement. This part of the comparison has 
reference to the innermost of the celestial wanderers, the 
sun and the moon, which are nearest to the eternally 
motionless earth, and which are described as inferior in 
speed of movement to all the other planets. 

We take our leave of this uninspiring portion of 
Aristotle's doctrine with the confession that much in it 
remains for us utterly obscure. Admitted that the predicates 
" life " and " activity " here applied to the stars were really 
coined for the benefit of the star-spirits, this can still hold 
only of the planets. What, then, are we to think about 
the fixed stars ? They, too, are assuredly not meant to be 
conceived of as without soul. But movement, the highest 
of the functions of soul, is denied by Aristotle to the stars 
of all kinds, and only conceded to the spheres to which 
they are attached. A comparison of the stars with plants 
and animals is still less of a help to clearness, since genesis 
and corruption, nutrition and excretion, all forms of growth 
or change, are expressly banned from the celestial realm. 
Finally, even contemplative activity is never ascribed to 
the star-gods, but solely and exclusively to the Supreme 


Deity or Unmoved Mover. This last article of Aristotle's 
divinity must now engage our attention. 

8. God thinks — God thinks Himself — God thinks only 
Himself — this self- thinking of the Deity forms is supreme 
blessedness : such are the propositions in which Aristotle's 
theology terminates. They are based upon the following 
considerations. Thought, excluding all doing or working, 
is the one activity worthy of the highest being. The value 
of each thought is determined by its object ; therefore the 
object of the divine thought, were it other than the Deity 
Himself, would at once degrade Him to unworthy depths 
and divest Him of His majesty. Finally, thought, as the 
one activity which is completely free from external 
influences, is also the only source of the highest happiness. 

Even in our own days this doctrine has not lacked 
enthusiastic panegyrists. But " the most elevated doctrine 
to which the mind of Aristotle soared " has, since the 
Scholastic period, succeeded in maintaining this position 
only when the attempt has been made to empty it of its 
true content by an illegitimate reconstruction. Thomas of 
Aquino (who died in 1274) imagined himself to be merely 
playing the part of an interpreter while in reality he was 
labouring to give the fatal narrowness of that doctrine an 
inadmissible extension. " In knowing Himself," so affirms 
the great Scholastic, " God knows all other things " of 
which the Deity itself is the cause and first principle. 
This addition was intended to bar an inference which all 
truly unprejudiced interpreters have been unable to avoid 
drawing, and which the latest successor of Saint Thomas 
and of Duns Scotus (died 1308) has sarcastically expressed 
by the phrase, " the all-ignorance of God." But precisely 
this " all-ignorance " must be acquiesced in unless we 
allow ourselves simply to explain away whatever in Aris- 
totle's teaching displeases us. Quick-witted, but by no 
means superficial Frenchmen, from Pierre de la Ramee 
(15 15-1572) down to our own contemporary, Jules Simon 
(i 814-1896), have taken an especial part in subjecting this 
doctrine to severe criticism. The first, who expiated the 
audacity of his attack on Aristotle in the Massacre of St. 


Bartholomew, speaks of the " peacock-like vanity " involved 
in that beatific self-contemplation lasting through all 
eternity ; while Jules Simon is amazed at the " lonely God 
of Aristotle, who is declared at once to be the cause of the 
harmony of the universe and to lack the knowledge both 
of that universe and of its harmony," 

That the eternal sameness of this divine self-contempla- 
tion could only mean the most utter tedium is an obvious 
criticism, to which the reply might possibly be made that 
it attributes too much to human weakness, which always 
seeks after change, for which, indeed, change, or at least 
interruption, is a fundamental condition of all perception 
(cf. Vol. I. p. 118). We have no right, it may be urged, to 
exalt our own imperfection into a measure of the psychic 
life of the Deity. The objection is sound, but it is not 
raised in the right place. Just as little as we are entitled 
to transfer the limits of human perception, human feeling, 
human happiness, to the Deity, so little is it open to 
us to assume that what makes men happy has the same 
effect on a supernatural being. So long as differences of 
degree are alone in question, we may draw admissible 
inferences by way of analogy from the states and expe- 
riences of less perfect to those of more perfect natures. 
But where we are concerned with the fundamental conditions 
of psychic life, not merely with regard to their degree, but 
their nature, all ground is lacking for any conclusions 
whatever. Once let us assume enough similarity between 
the psychic life of man and any other psychic life to justify 
the smallest inference by analogy, and we are faced by the 
fundamental fact of unceasing change and contrast. A 
changeless feeling, remaining continually the same, is some- 
thing totally unknown to us, accessible by no bridge of 
analogy. The Stagirite, however, has fashioned his Deity 
after the image of man, or, more accurately, not after that 
of man in general, but after that of the philosopher devoted 
to the contemplative life. His teaching on the pre- 
eminence of this type of life above all others will soon 
meet us again as the crowning point of his theory of 



Aristotle's ethics. 

I. The ethical teachings of Aristotle have been handed 
down to us in threefold presentment. Strangely enough, 
the work in two books, which appears under the most 
pretentious title, the " Great Ethics," has long been recog- 
nized as a mere extract, a handbook for school use. The 
other two works, the " Nicomachean " and the " Eudemian 
Ethics," the first in ten books, the second in seven (of 
which, however, Books IV.-VI. have been lost and replaced 
by the corresponding books of the " Nicomachean Ethics "), 
are worked-up versions of Aristotle's course of ethical 
lectures. These lectures were delivered by him to his 
maturer pupils, and are expressly described as unsuited 
to the too youthful " hearers." We have before us two 
editions of the same course, one compiled and published 
by Aristotle's favourite pupil Eudemus, the other perhaps 
by his son Nicomachus, who died early, but may have had 
the assistance of Theophrastus. The Eudemian version 
exhibits certain individual peculiarities, especially a stronger 
emphasis on the religious element ; the Nicomachean version 
is that one with which the half-dozen quotations from him- 
self made by Aristotle in his other works are found to 
correspond exactly. It is rightly regarded as the more 
authentic of the two versions, just as it is the more com- 
plete. The fidelity of the reproduction seems to shine 
out in many peculiarities specially characteristic of lectures 
(cf. p. 32). Sometimes we have desultory remarks, in 
part raising anew questions settled in much earlier sections, 
sometimes remarkable and almost verbal repetitions. Some 


points are treated at length, others again with such curt 
mention that we can hardly avoid supposing the editor to 
have been here deserted by the pupils' note- books and 
compelled to utilize the mere outline-sketches of the teacher 

2. We begin with the structure and general content of 
the work. The first is faultless, and shows no lack of 
unity. The doubts w^hich arise on a superficial view vanish 
before a more careful scrutiny. 

The introduction treats, among other matters, of goods 
in general, of the distinction between those which are ends 
and those which are means, of the subordination of the 
auxiliary arts to the master arts, and of all arts to that 
art or reasoned practice which pursues the actual goal of 
life. This last art, which may be named politics or state- 
craft, is represented as including ethics, since in the welfare 
of the State or community — we should here distinguish 
between the State and society — that of individuals is 
comprehended. Accordingly, as we may pause to observe, 
throughout this course of instruction the word " politics " 
is used for ethics as well, by a figure which sets the whole 
in the place of the part. To seek closer acquaintance with 
the supreme end cannot, says Aristotle, be without its 
use. Would not the archer have a better prospect of 
making a bull's-eye if he knew the target than if he did 
not .-* The investigation must renounce the highest exacti- 
tude. For so great is the divergence of opinion on what 
is honourable and what just, that doubts have actually found 
expression as to whether these distinctions are not wholly 
artificial, resting not on nature but on convention. The 
ultimate foundation of these doubts is the uncertainty of 
consequences — we should rather say the enormous com- 
plication of human life. Not merely a virtue, like courage, 
but even a good, like wealth, has proved a source of ruin 
for many. We must therefore content ourselves with 
approximate generalizations, with the knowledge of what 
happens " as a rule ; " just as in every department of 
knowledge only the appropriate measure of exactness is 
to be professed. It would be equally foolish to expect 



merely probable reasoning from a mathematician and 
rigorous demonstration from a statesman. 

What, then, is the goal of life or the highest good ? 
By name it is known to us all as welfare {tvEai/aovia). 
Herein the great multitude is of the same opinion with 
the "more refined persons." With the attempt at closer 
definition the ways part ; for the mass of mankind under- 
stand by the term something " tangible and on the surface," 
such as riches, honour, pleasure. (Even at this early stage 
it becomes clear that the conception of ev^atibiovia has, as it 
were, an objective side. If it meant mere happiness it would 
almost inevitably have been apprehended as a sum of 
pleasurable feelings or at least of permanent pleasurable 
states. It comprises rather what one might call the normal 
or healthy condition of the whole soul.) To begin with, 
Aristotle proposes to extract the knowledge of tv^aifiovia 
from a comparative examination of the main types of life. 
Of these there are three : the life of pleasure, the 
contemplative life, the political life. The rejection of the 
first is pronounced without any real logical ground, but 
rather, one may say, on the strength of an estimate 
brought ready-made to the discussion, and manifesting itself 
in such vituperative expressions as " brutish," " servile," 
and so forth. The appraisement of political life reaches 
greater depths. The prize is denied it because of the 
dependence of honour — the presumed goal of the politician 
— on those who pay honour. But the highest good, it is 
urged, must be independent and hard to lose. Further, 
men desire to be honoured for their virtue ; and this very 
desire acknowledges that virtue is the higher aim. One 
who has learnt this might now be inclined to think virtue 
the supreme end ; but this would be a mistake. For it is 
conceivable that a possessor of virtue might slumber away 
his days, live a life without deeds, and in addition be 
afflicted by all kinds of disappointment and adversity. In 
such a life no one would discover evcuinovia, unless it were 
a disputatious dialectician — a proviso which sounds like a 
premonition of the paradoxes yet to come (the wise man 
is happy even in the bull of Phalaris, and so on). 


This examination is based on premisses which are 
partly tacit, though not arbitrary, such as : the highest 
good must be permanent, and independent of external 
influences ; honour is not so high a thing as that for which 
honour is paid. But in part, too, the premisses are far- 
fetched and arbitrarily assumed. To this number belongs 
the hypothesis of a "virtue" which could slumber for a 
life-time as a latent capacity, without enforcing any active 
manifestation of itself, and yet without rusting from disuse. 

There follows a polemical digression against Plato and 
his doctrine of Ideas, from which is derived the since 
proverbial " Amicus Plato, sed magis amica Veritas " (cf. 
p. 19) ; and then the problem of the supreme good is 
resumed. In every case, it is now urged, that object is 
more perfect which is sought after as an end ; that object 
is absolutely perfect which is always an end and never a 
means. This holds good pre-eminently of ivcaifxovia. The 
same result is obtained by an investigation which sets out 
from the idea of avrupKeia (self-sufficiency). The perfect 
good must possess this character, and ivcaijuovia does in 
truth possess it ; it makes life worth living even when 
denuded of all other goods. There follow attempts to 
define ^vcai/jLovUt more closely. It is declared first of all 
to be the peculiar "function" of man, which is found in 
the " activity of the soul according to reason, or at least 
not devoid of reason," or in the " activity of the soul 
according to the highest and most perfect of the virtues." 
An activity in accordance with virtue, not virtue itself — the 
distinction is one on which Aristotle lays considerable 
stress. Among other illustrations of it there occurs the 
fine saying, "At Olympia it is not the best-built and 
most powerful men who are crowned, but the contestants." 
So, too, it is only those who act rightly, not (as we may 
complete the thought) those who merely have good dis- 
positions, to whom a share of the good and beautiful in 
life is granted. This kind of life does not need " plea- 
sure " as an external addition or " appendage," but rather 
includes it in itself. 

By this desire to prove human happiness as independent 


as he possibly can of external circumstances, to found it on 
inner worth and its practical manifestation, the philosopher 
is here and there led to the brink of exaggerations from 
which he is immediately recalled by his sense of measure, 
his clear vision of the realities of life. Among external 
requisites first mention is given to a " full," that is, not too 
short, span of life, for " one swallow does not make a 
summer." A moderate degree of outward wealth is then 
pronounced desirable. Straitened circumstances are said 
to be not indifferent, chiefly because they rob us of the 
instruments of beautiful and noble action. Nor can 
complete eh^aifxovia be the portion of one who is excep- 
tionally ugly, of the low-born, of the isolated, of the child- 
less : it is still more emphatically denied to one whose 
children have turned out downright failures, or have turned 
out well and died. Still, even the lot of a Priam does not 
in itself necessarily make a man wretched ; though to one 
so afflicted the name of happy could no longer be applied. 
The language of this discussion is at once warm and 
elevated in tone ; it bears witness to the inner feeling of 
the author, who would have even " many and grievous 
strokes of fortune " borne in a temper springing " not from 
mere obtuseness, but from nobility of soul and high- 
mindedness." Lastly, the permanence of evdaifxovia, its 
independence, within large limits, of fate, are based upon 
the fixity of a character once acquired. Its continuance 
is more assured than that of intellectual acquisitions. 
Exercise and constant translation into act here make any- 
thing corresponding to forgetfulness an impossibility. Yet 
we seem to have before us rather the expression of a wish 
than the statement of a fact when we read that the " most 
valuable " habits of life are at the same time the " most 
permanent," just as if there were no hardened evil-doers, 
no "habitual criminals." 

3. Two characteristic details now claim our attention. 
The question is glanced at whether tvdaifiovta is obtained 
from teaching, by practice, or how else. The exclusively 
religious view of the matter is here rejected gently and 
considerately, but no less decisively. To those who hold 


tv^aifiov'ia " a gift of the gods," he answers that it is in 
any case one of the divinest of possessions, even if it is 
not actually conferred by the gods. A mere gift of the 
gods — it is hinted— could only be the privilege of a few 
elect, while in truth sv^cufxovia, as the goal and prize of 
virtue, is accessible to all who in this respect are not, so 
to speak, "crippled." We adnriire here that union of 
candour with delicacy which surrenders no right of philo- 
sophy and yet avoids giving unnecessary offence to religious 

In a neighbouring passage, on the other hand, Aristotle 
goes further than we should expect on the road of con- 
cession to popular opinions. The question mooted is 
whether we are affected by events happening after our 
death, by the fate of our posterity and friends ; whether 
the title "happy" is to be withheld from a life now ended 
on the ground that those nearest and dearest to the 
departed may yet be visited by grievous calamity. As 
the Stagirite wholly denies the immortality of the individual 
human soul (with the sole exception of the intellectual 
element, which is not here in question), the answer to this 
problem was clearly marked out for him. But he cannot 
bring himself to give this answer. The bare negative 
seems to him "too heartless," too sharply "opposed to 
current opinion." He accordingly contents himself with a 
compromise which we can hardly describe otherwise than 
as weak. The influence alluded to is not denied, but 
reduced to a minimum. It is said to be "slight and 
weak," both in itself, since external events have little effect 
on ivdaLjuLovia, and also in regard to the dead as such. 
This is one of many instances from which we can learn a 
useful lesson. Sometimes Aristotle consciously and de- 
liberately adopts popular opinions, and draws the conse- 
quences that flow from them. Sometimes he expresses his 
own convictions. But it is by no means possible, as it 
may perhaps have been thought, to draw with certainty 
the boundary-line between the two cases. It is not a rare 
thing for him to slip down from the higher region to the 
lower. Occasional lack of scientific courage is a fault which 


we have already found in him (cf. p. 58), and loth as we 
are to repeat the charge, this is not altogether avoidable. 

With ev^aifxovia the course of ethical lectures both 
begins and ends. The intermediate part is occupied with 
discussions of the means which subserve this highest end, 
and as this end has been discovered to be an activity of 
the soul in accordance with virtue, most of the matter 
relates to the virtues or excellences of the human soul. 
Now, a man who wished to investigate the excellence of 
the eye would first make himself acquainted with the eye 
itself and its functions ; just so he who wishes to discover 
the excellence of the soul must first learn to know the soul 
itself and its operations. Thus ethics is referred to a 
basis in psychology. From this basis is derived the dis- 
tinction between intellectual excellence and ethical (in the 
narrower and proper sense). We have to notice that for 
Aristotle this distinction signifies anything but a strict 
severance. Quite the contrary. The rule of reason has no 
less important a part to play in moral than in intellectual 
virtue or excellence, while the former figures as a main 
condition of the latter. But however close the relationship 
of the two branches, and however intimate their interaction, 
a separate treatment of them seems absolutely necessary. 

4, With this distinction the second book opens. It 
treats firstly of the different modes of acquiring the two 
main kinds of excellence of the soul. Instruction and 
experience on the one side are paralleled by habituation 
and practice on the other. Here we note with some 
surprise the wide interval which separates Aristotle's 
teaching from the Socratic intellectualism. " From youth 
upwards to be accustomed to be good " — this is for 
Aristotle the alpha and the omega of moral education, 
the goal on which the legislator, too, is bound to fix his 
eye. The connexion between habituation and its conse- 
quences is illustrated by physiological parallels. Generous 
nutrition and vigorous practice confer bodily strength ; every 
advance in bodily strength qualifies in its turn for the re- 
ception of still more generous nutriment, and the practice 
of still more vigorous exercises. So habituation to the 


contempt of danger n:iakes us brave, while every advance 
in courage increases our self-confidence, and enables us to 
face still greater dangers. But now we come to a puzzle. 
How can we become just by practising justice, seeing that 
it is impossible to practise justice without being already 
just ? The difficulty is solved by a comparison with the 
learning of music or the art of writing ; the first steps are 
taken half by accident or under the guidance of others. 
Those who in philosophy content themselves with theo- 
retical knowledge are compared with patients who listen 
eagerly to the physician's words, but absolutely refuse to 
follow his prescriptions. 

The exposition approaches nearer and nearer to the 
governing theory of the mean. No absolutely fixed, 
easily definable standard exists with respect to the bene- 
ficial effects of food or of bodily exercises ; just as little is 
there such a standard where objects of fear, desire, and so 
on are concerned. In all these departments there is a 
too-much on the one side, and a too-little on the other. 
An excess of sensuous desire is called dissoluteness ; a 
defect, insensibility. He who is terrified by the rustling 
of a mouse is rightly held a coward ; he who challenges 
tenfold odds is with equal justice deemed foolhardy. 
Excellence is attributed to a quality equally removed 
from defect and excess. We have, however, to dis- 
tinguish the objective mean from the relative. Midway 
between the numbers 2 and 10 we have the number 6, 
which differs equally from both. But if food costing 2 
minae {£'^) a year is too little for a person, while food 
costing 10 minae is too much, it does not follow from 
this that a yearly outlay of 6 minae will provide him 
with the most appropriate and desirable quantity. The 
right amount of food for him will lie somewhere or other 
between the two extremes, but at what point of the interval 
is to be determined by experience and judgment. 

5. There now follows the definition of ethical excellence 
or virtue as a disposition of will " which abides in a relative 
mean having reference to us." To the question how this 
mean is to be ascertained, he answers that its determination 


is left to the wise. The looseness of this answer has moved 
posterity to mockery which refuses to be silenced. Since 
wisdom is represented as on the one hand the standard- 
setting factor or regulator of virtue, and on the other as 
itself depending on ethical virtue, Aristotle has not been 
spared the reproach of arguing in a circle. But though 
the form of the exposition may justify this reproach, which 
has been urged particularly by the logically rigorous 
Herbartians, the kernel of the doctrine, as we think, is not 
touched by it. We believe that the true defect of the 
theory of the mean lies elsewhere — in its undue extension, 
in its application to excellences, such as truthfulness and 
justice, which cannot without violence be forced into its 
framework (cf. p. 144). The true and valuable kernel of 
the doctrine, on the other hand, is to be found, we think, 
in the recognition, in the affirmation, as we may perhaps 
call it, of the totality of human nature. No element of 
that nature — here Aristotle's ethical teaching bears a 
genuinely Hellenic aspect — is absolutely rejected and 
pronounced wholly bad ; of each just this is demanded, that 
it should fill no more than the space which is its due. 
What this due space is, Aristotle certainly leaves to be 
decided by the judgment of the " wise," or, as he expresses 
it with at least equal frequency, of the " respectable " man. 
He was thus anything else rather than a radical reformer 
of morals or society. On the contrary, he makes it as clear 
as possible that in questions of the conduct of life he takes 
his stand on the ideals of his age and his people, or perhaps 
of a cultivated circle forming part of it. Herein lies the 
secret at once of his strength and his weakness (cf. pp. 57, 58). 
He is preserved from violent onesidedness and exaggeration 
such as we have met with among the Cynics, and may 
meet with again amongst the Stoics and Epicureans ; but 
he renounces the privilege of supplying one of those 
leavens which have influenced the moral progress of man- 
kind, sometimes beneficially, sometimes hurtfully, but 
always with permanent efiect (cf Vol. H. p. 166 seq.). 

Misuse of the doctrine of the mean is sought to be 
provided against by the remark that not every action and 


not every feeling admits of a praiseworthy mean. For 
there are feelings and actions the very name of which 
implies blame ; and in their case no middle region of 
commendability may be spoken of. Here Aristotle is in 
danger of paying more than due regard to the traditional 
opinions incorporated in language. We are reminded of 
Bentham's warning against " question-begging names.' 
The remainder of the book is occupied by a preliminary 
exemplification of the doctrine of the mean. Many subtle 
remarks are interspersed in this portion of the work. We 
are told that we have to be on our guard against 
nothing so much as against pleasure and the pleasure- 
giving. In face of these we are like corrupted judges. 
We may take for our pattern the old men who looked 
down from the wall of Troy, who were powerfully moved 
by the superhuman beauty of Helen, and who added to 
their expression of admiration the wish — 

" Yet, though so lovely she be, let her sail away home to her 

6. Since the ethical virtues have been affirmed to be 
particular conditions of the will, Aristotle finds himself 
compelled, before treating them in detail, to review the 
questions to which the human will gives rise. The first 
half of the third book is devoted to this subject. 

The first place is occupied by the distinction between 
the voluntary and the involuntary. The springs of involun- 
tary action are said to be force and ignorance. Of forced 
actions, one kind consists of those performed under pressure 
of threats or other dangers. Examples are supplied by 
the command of a tyrant who has our dearest in his 
power, and by the storm which necessitates the lightening 
of a ship by throwing valuable goods overboard. Actions 
performed in such times of stress are of mixed nature ; 
still the voluntary element in them preponderates, since 
our freedom of choice is not annihilated. Some might 
perhaps be inclined to expand the notion of force to such 
an extent as to include under it even the pleasurable and 
the morally admirable, on the ground that both are outside 


us and exercise constraint upon us. To such it may be 
answered that there would then be no action but forced 
action ; since whatever we do is done from motives of 
this kind. Accordingly, the notion of " force " is limited 
to cases of true compulsion, in which the origin of the 
action lies outside ourselves, and we contribute nothing 
to it. 

With regard to ignorant action various subtle distinc- 
tions are drawn. The involuntary agent is not the same 
as the non-voluntary, for the former produces effects con- 
trary to his intentions, not merely foreign to them. In 
the same way action through ignorance is distinguished 
from action in ignorance. In the first case the ignorance 
relates to the end, and there is a mistaken view of the 
purpose of life ; in the second case the ignorance relates 
to the means of execution, as when drunkenness or rage 
dictates the act and the darkened intelligence errs in 
the choice of means. The view that actions prompted by 
emotion are in themselves involuntary is combated by the 
argument, among others, that it would then be necessary 
to deny all voluntary action to animals and children. Thus 
the name of " voluntary " is here given to merely animal 
spontaneous acts. A higher stage of voluntary action is 
found in resolution accompanied by reflexion (TrpoaipiaiQ), 
which is more exactly defined as " a deliberate striving 
after that which is within our power." A detailed account 
of the investigation would require too lengthy a considera- 
tion of linguistic differences. We content ourselves with 
the result : the object of the wish is the end or goal ; the 
object of deliberation and the consequent resolve is the 
means ; the actions directed towards such means are 
purposeful and voluntary. This applies to manifestations 
of virtue as well as of vice. In an earlier section (pp. 192-7) 
we have described the way in which Aristotle wrestles, 
not altogether unsuccessfully, with the difficulties of the 
problem of the will. The two paths which start from 
" phantasy," and lead, the one to logical thinking, the other 
to desire and striving (of>it,i(:), conducted us to this cul- 
minating point of Aristotle's psychology. The philosopher 


himself took so little pains about systematic arrangement 
in these subjects that he reserved these purely psychological 
discussions of the will-problem for his work on ethics ; 
while the doctrine of the emotions, which equally belongs 
to psychology, was brought by him into a somewhat 
external connexion with rhetoric, and incorporated in his 
course of instruction upon that art. 

The second half of the book passes on to the detailed 
consideration of the ethical virtues and vices. At the head 
of them is placed courage, which (in obviously intentional 
contrast to Plato's extension of this notion, cf. Vol. II, 
p. 297 seq.) he prefers to understand in the original and 
popular sense. Special fruitfulness cannot be claimed for 
this discussion, nor yet for the section on the next cardinal 
virtue, temperance (aw^/joo-uy?;), to which, moreover, a return 
is made in the seventh book. That which is worthiest 
note in these chapters is, perhaps, the statement that 
cowardice is of more pathological nature than profligacy. 

7. The fourth book treats of moral excellences and 
defects in a manner which is highly characteristic, partly 
of ancient sentiment and partly of Aristotle himself. Our 
philosopher has already shown how small a part business 
played in his conception of life by slurring it over when 
discussing the chief types of human existence. It is true that 
together with the life of pleasure, of politics, and of contem- 
plation, he also mentions the life of business ; but it is only 
to dismiss it immediately with the remark that material 
possessions are a means for other ends, but not an end in 
themselves. Quite in keeping with this aristocratic rather 
than bourgeois temper is his estimate of moral qualities 
relating to money matters. He explains " liberality " as 
the right mean between "prodigality" and "meanness." 
Indulgent consideration is here meted out to the prodigal, 
whose extravagance is attributed in most cases to faults of 
education, while it is held to be a task of not too great diffi- 
culty to lead him back by suitable training to the correct 
medium. "Meanness," on the other hand, is pronounced 
incurable ; it is an inheritance of the many which grows 
with the increase of years, and is aggravated by every other 


diminution of power. Some of the touches employed in 
this description remind us of comedy ; for example, the 
" cummin-splitter," who is taken as the type of the niggard 
and skinflint. 

A higher stage of liberality is known as " magnificence," 
a term which fails to coincide with our " munificence," 
since it denotes the grand style in money matters rather 
than the disposition to incur great expense for the benefit 
of others or for public purposes. Thus it is described as 
manifesting itself in the appointments of a man's own 
house. The two extremes are " pettiness " (differing from 
" meanness " rather in degree than in kind) and " swagger- 
ing ostentation." These last words denote not so much 
an exaggeration of " magnificence " as the display of it 
in the wrong place and on unsuitable occasions, as when 
a man entertains his clubmates on a scale appropriate to 
wedding-feasts, or when a choir-leader in a comedy wears 
a purple cloak. The man of " petty " mind, on the other 
hand, will spoil the effect of the greatest expenditure for 
the sake of a trifling economy ; he undertakes nothing 
costly without hesitation and reluctance, and yet is always 
afraid that he has overstepped the limit of what is neces- 
sary. In discussing these faults, Aristotle uses the word 
which denotes vice in the true sense, but he distinguishes 
them from such vice by the remark that they do not hurt 
others and are not really disgraceful. 

The same qualification recurs in the treatment of 
" mean-spiritedness " and "conceit," the two extremes 
between which "magnanimity" is represented as lying. 
With this crown and " ornament of all the virtues " we 
reach that point in the Aristotelian and ancient morality 
which represents the maximum of self-assertion and thus 
the greatest divergence from Christian self-denial. Kind- 
ness is certainly an element in this assured, deep-seated 
sense of distinction. But it is the kindness of superiority, 
partly of pride. Thus the magnanimous man greatly 
prefers conferring benefits to receiving them. To bear 
malice is as foreign to his nature as to dissemble his 
feelings ; the second is contrary to the fearlessness, the 



first to the dignity, of his nature. His feeling towards the 
many is one of contempt, and his intercourse with them 
marked by irony. The central element in magnanimity is 
that the possessor of this quality knows himself worthy 
of the highest honours and seeks them, though without 
haste or eagerness. Even princely power and wealth are 
regarded by him as means, not ends. Among the external 
marks of his character are measured bodily movements and 
a composed voice, far removed from all shrillness — tokens, 
we may add, of the secure possession of power, such as 
are to be found particularly in the great ones of the East. 
And indeed the type here described might perhaps be best 
named as that of the grmid seigneur equipped with all the 
virtues. The " magnanimous " man, lastly, is worthy of 
the honour which he claims ; while the pretensions of 
the " mean-spirited " are over-modest, and those of the 
" conceited " immoderate. 

" Ambition " is related to " magnanimity " just as 
" liberality " is to '' magnificence " in money matters. It 
signifies the desire for honour, not on a strikingly great 
scale, but in a manner which hits the correct medium in 
respect of the sources and the degree. It has to be con- 
fessed that there is no settled linguistic usage, as the same 
word is sometimes employed in a sense which conveys 
reproach. On the other hand, men are sometimes called 
" unambitious " by way of praise ; for where the correct 
mean has no separate name, the extremes often usurp the 
vacant place. 

8. We now come to gentleness. This term relates to 
the emotion of anger ; it denotes not so much the true 
mean as a point below it, but is still recommended as a 
name for the mean itself. One of the extremes, blame- 
worthy " irritability " or " irascibility," is described much 
as we should describe it ; the delineation of the too-little 
is much more characteristic. We are here enabled to 
measure the deep gulf which separates the Aristotelian 
way of thinking, which is also that of the Greeks in general, 
both from Christian humility and from Cynic " freedom 
from emotion." He who is not angry when there is need, 


or not in the needful measure, "gives an impression of 
insensibility, and of not being in a condition to defend 
himself." The man, further, who "takes insults quietly, 
whether offered to himself or to his connexions, shows the 
temper of a slave," not of a free man. These thoughts 
were spun out to further length in the Peripatetic school, 
and illustrated by apt comparisons. The emotion of anger 
is required not only for defence, but for castigation ; he 
who would abolish it cuts through the sinews of the soul ; 
without anger and cognate emotions reason resembles a 
general without soldiers. 

Some of the types of character now discussed belong to 
the sphere of social intercourse. Such, for example, is the 
case with the quality, not possessing a separate name, 
which lies in the correct mean between "obsequiousness" 
(which is called flattery when coupled with selfishness) and 
the opposite extreme of " peevishness " and "contentious- 
ness." We, perhaps, should call this excellence "urbanity," 
in the highest sense of the word. Similarly, we have the 
adroit master of graceful and sociable wit, distinguished on 
the one hand from the " buffoon," or " vulgar jester," and 
on the other from the " boorish and wooden " fellow. The 
Old and the New Comedy are cited in illustration. Broad 
comic effects were produced in the former by coarse abuse ; 
in the latter the place of this is taken by innuendo. Legis- 
lators have already forbidden certain things to be reviled ; 
perhaps they would have done well to protect them also 
from being made fun of. For he who takes pleasure in 
listening to something is soon ready to do it himself. But 
here the man of really refined feeling, who has nothing of 
the slave in him, ought to be a law to himself. 

Some attention is here given to " shame," though the 
subject does not, as he says, properly belong here, since this 
word signifies either mere emotion or the mastery over us of 
an emotion, not a quality of will. Shame, being fear of evil 
reputation, is closely akin to the fear of danger, which it 
further resembles in its influence over the body. It makes 
us blush, just as the other kind of fear causes us to turn 
pale. It is becoming to youth, upon which it acts as a 


wholesome corrective of the manifold errors due to passion. 
But it ill befits maturity ; for at this stage of life it is not 
for a man either to be actually guilty of any act for which 
he need feel shame, or to be seriously perturbed by the 
imputation of such an act. Nor is any difference to be 
made here between what is truly disgraceful and what is 
so by convention, " for both are to be avoided." This little 
clause, be it remarked in parenthesis, could not have been 
written by any Cynic, nor yet by Plato, who showed so 
little respect for tradition, for example, in questions relating 
to women. Utterances of this kind teach us how great 
was the philosopher's dependence on his iiiilieji, and how 
vain the attempt is to distinguish rigorously between the 
cases in which he expresses personal conviction and those 
in which he merely represents current opinion. 

If in treating of shame Aristotle abandons the formula 
of the mean, the subject of truthfulness leads him to a not 
very happy application of it. Granted the necessity of 
forcing this virtue somehow into the framework of the mean, 
it was open to him to take for one extreme the thorough- 
paced liar, and for the other the fanatical lover of truth 
who refuses to lie even if his own life or the safety of his 
country depends upon it. The types which he adduces, 
namely, of the " boastful " man on the one side, and the 
" ironist, or self-depreciator," on the other, are indeed more 
in keeping with real life ; but they are concerned with only 
a small portion of the subject, and impose a corresponding 
limitation on the virtue which lies between them. It is 
true that, in addition to the statements here in question, 
those relating to the merits of the utterer, Aristotle also 
mentions others, namely, those having to do with contracts 
and promises ; but it is only to refer them to the sphere of 
justice. No one need be told that these two classes taken 
together are far from exhausting the whole province of 

In treating of boastfulness our philosopher exhibits 
once more a trait in his character which we have already 
noted — his contempt for money-making. In so far as 
boasting has a purpose, it is said to be less blameworthy 


when it aims at fame and honour than when its object is 
pecuniary profit. Self-depreciation, or irony, is regarded 
as objectionable only in its cruder forms. Sometimes, as 
is subtly remarked, the one extreme assumes the garb of 
the other. Thus the excessive simplicity of Spartan 
costume appears, superficially regarded, as self-depreciation ; 
in truth, it is disguised vain-glory. We are reminded of 
Plato's saying, " The vanity of Antisthenes peeps out 
through the holes in his cloak." 



Aristotle's ethics. 
(Continuation : Justice.) 

I. The inadequacy of the theory of the mean is nowhere 
more clearly exhibited than in the treatment of justice. 
One whole book, the fifth, is devoted to this virtue. But 
it is not only by its exceptional compass that this section is 
distinguished from the others. Here for the first time 
altruism makes its appearance without disguise. Let us not 
be misunderstood. We do not here speak of altruism in 
the sense of Christian charity, or of Comte's " vivre pour 
autrui." Just as little do we wish to hint that the duty of 
caring for others' welfare was unknown to the Hellenes 
before Aristotle. No assertion could be more foolish. 
In the Homeric poems the gods often appear as the 
guardians of justice ; the most striking passage is that in 
which rich produce of the fields, fertility of fruit trees and 
flocks, are mentioned as rewarding the just judgments of 
a god-fearing king. Nor will the reader need to be 
reminded of the great part which justice plays in Plato's 
ethics. But at the same time, he will not have forgotten 
the artificial nature of the reasoning by which Plato 
connected justice with the welfare of the just person. By 
a strange limitation of its content this virtue was identified 
with the harmony of classes in the state, which harmony 
in its turn was represented as the counterpart of harmony 
reigning in the individual soul. Such is the wide circuit 
by which Plato reached the proof that just actions are 
demanded by the interest of the agent. Act justly, else 
thy inward peace is endangered — such, reduced to its 


tersest expression, is Plato's mode of basing the chief 
social virtue on a foundation of individualistic ethics. 
There is nothing of this in the moral philosophy of Plato's 
pupil. Without any circumlocution, justice is declared to 
be a virtue aiming at the good of others. That such a 
virtue does exist, one which is not directed to the good of 
the agent, but to another (ttjOoc Inpov, ad alteruui), Aristotle 
expressly remarks ; and he notes the fact not without a 
certain surprise. He does not trouble himself about any 
eudsemonistic foundation. Indirectly, he rejects Plato's 
attempt to supply one by cutting away the ground on 
which he built, the identification of political justice with 
the subordination of one class to another, contrary to 
the principle of equality. We are thus entitled to say 
that altruism here appears for the first time in Greek 
philosophy without any support from the agent's quest of 
happiness, no longer masquerading as something else, but 
standing firm on its own rights. 

Two cases of " justice " are distinguished — a wider and 
a narrower. The narrower kind of justice, as we shall 
presently see, is in its turn subdivided into several species. 
The wider justice is identified with moral virtue or excellence 
in general. This is done in the following way. Obedience 
to the laws is in a manner just, and disobedience to 
them unjust. Since, then, this positive law, or justice, 
commands the exercise of all other virtues and sometimes 
punishes the neglect of them (for example, cowardice in 
war or assault in peace), Aristotle finds it possible, not 
without some violence, to bring all the other virtues and 
vices under this head, by the aid of the mediating concepts 
of lawfulness and unlawfulness. This is done with the 
reservations that the virtues concerned are here to be 
regarded from the standpoint, not of one's own but of 
another's welfare. The philosopher thus claims to have 
confirmed the truth of the proverb — 

" Verily all of the virtues are comprehended in justice," 

as well as that of the assertion that justice is perfected 
virtue. For it is far harder, he says, to maintain moral 


excellence in dealing with others, than merely in following 
one's own interest. The exposition of these thoughts 
terminates in the burst of fervour to which we have already 
alluded (p. 27). Not the morning and not the evening 
star is so wondrous fair as justice, which, lastly, is also called 
the foundation of every political or social community. 

2. Justice in the special sense, to which we now come, 
has two sub-varieties. These are distributive justice and 
corrective, as it is generally called, though perhaps the 
term "directive," employed by the Schoolmen, is preferable. 
The sphere in which this latter operates is that of trans- 
actions, especially commercial transactions, such as sale, 
hire, giving security, and so on. By the side of these 
voluntary transactions are set others which (regarded from 
the side of the passive party) are involuntary. This some- 
what artificial heading comprises all imaginable aggressions 
upon life and property, honoiH^and freedom ; and these are 
further subdivided into secret treacheries and acts of open 
violence. It is only in respect of these involuntary trans- 
actions that directive justice can be regarded as also 
corrective or penal. 

Distributive justice is said to consist in allotting to 
each person according to his worth or desert — a definition 
in which political privileges are preponderantly, though 
not exclusively, held in view. The standard of worth is 
said to be different in differently ordered states : in a 
democracy, it is freedom (that is, every one who is not a 
slave has the same due) ; in an oligarchy it is riches ; in an 
aristocracy of birth, it is descent ; in true aristocracy, it is 
virtue. All strife and confusion is said to spring from the 
inequality of the equal or from the equality of the unequal. 
In reality, it is said, distributive justice rests on a pro- 
portional equality. In every case the proportion involves 
four terms, or three if one has a double employment. It 
makes no difference in principle whether the proportion 
runs a.s a : b so d '. c, or as a : d so c '- d, or again a.s a : c so 
b : d. The point always is that performances must in each 
case correspond to rewards, duties to rights. The doer 
of injustice receives more, the sufferer of injustice less, than 


the amount to which the proportion leads. This applies 
to cases where goods are in question ; with evils the reverse 
relation holds. This more and less now provides the handle 
by means of which the doctrine of the mean is introduced 
into this branch of justice. It was impossible for Aristotle 
to apply the theory to justice directly or in any other way. 
No pair of extremes can here be named like those of 
cowardice and foolhardiness, insensibility and dissolute- 
ness, between which courage and temperance strike the 
happy mean. The only contrast to justice is injustice. 
Aristotle is fully aware of this distinction, and he gives it 
frank expression in the remark that the mean does not 
here come into play " in the same manner as in the case 
of the other virtues ;" it now relates to the "object" — we 
might say the purpose or intended consequence- — of the 
action. This object or result is represented as an equality, 
which certainly lies in the middle between two extremes, 
a more and a less. But on occasion the philosopher allows 
himself to be betrayed into a form of words which again 
obscures the distinction, and, if taken literally, amounts to 
an absurdity. Of this nature is the sentence : " Justice is 
a mean between the doing and the suffering of injustice." 
Or is there any intelligible sense in which we can say that 
honesty in business is a mean between overreaching and 
being overreached ? This could in any case be said only 
of honesty combined with prudence, the second of which 
saves us from the loss sustained through being over- 
reached by others, while the first withholds from us the 
profit which we might gain by overreaching others. Here, 
however, it is merely a case of looseness in expression, 
though, no doubt, besides simple negligence, there comes 
into play, perhaps in preponderant measure, a half- 
unconscious desire to mask in some degree the funda- 
mental difference between the idea of the mean in its 
application to justice and the same idea applied to the 
other virtues. 

This double use of the same notion, firstly, with respect 
to the agent's disposition of mind, secondly, with respect 
to the results of the action, depends on a merely external 


similarity, and may be regarded as an attempt at subtlety. 
The great dialectician has for once allowed himself to be 
caught in the meshes of his own dialectic. The true basis 
of that theory of the mean is the fact that human nature 
is endowed with instincts which crave satisfaction and press 
for active manifestation, but which at the same time have 
to be prevented from encroaching on the sphere of other 
instincts and needs possessing equal or greater claims. 
This is the case, for example, with the instinct of self- 
defence no less than with the impulses of the sensuous 
order. It is in these regions that we have to seek the 
root and the justification of the theory of the mean, wherein 
we see a scientific expression of that law of moderation 
which played so eminent a part in the popular naturalistic 
morality of the Greeks. 

3. The eye of our philosopher being thus one-sidedly 
fixed on the equality which is disturbed by excess or 
defect and restored by just dealing, it becomes possible to 
understand, what would otherwise be incomprehensible, 
how he comes to regard penal justice, at least in one lead- 
ing passage, as exclusively a matter of readjustment. The 
judge, who is "justice personified," seeks to efi'ect this 
adjustment by taking away unjust gain from the gainer, by 
compensating the loser for unjustly inflicted loss. The best 
modern interpreter of the " Nicomachean Ethics " refused 
to credit the author of it with the " childish doctrine " that 
the awarding of damages is the only task of legal pro- 
cedure. He also urges that Aristotle could not have 
possibly failed to observe that the relations between the 
doing and the suffering of injustice is by no means always 
of the simple nature supposed ; that, on the contrary, the 
injustice with which the one party is chargeable often far 
exceeds, but sometimes falls far below, the damage sus- 
tained by the other party. To this we have to answer 
that while so narrow a conception of a judge's duties 
and the failure to perceive the objection just raised are 
not faults with which one would expect Aristotle to be 
guilty, yet the wording of his statements leaves no other 
interpretation open, and that the error in question is the 


legitimate offspring of another more fundamental error, 
the illegitimate transference of the theory of the mean to 
a region where it does not apply. 

It is a pleasure to add that in another passage of the 
same book Aristotle clearly detects and powerfully combats 
a kindred error. On this occasion, no doubt, his vision is 
sharpened by the stimulus of a controversy. The Pytha- 
goreans, as our readers know (cf Vol. I. p. io6), had 
identified justice with a square number, because the notion 
of exact requital, like for like, reminded them of the 
genesis of a number from two equal factors. This pre- 
supposition of theirs, the lex iaiionis, is attacked by Aristotle 
with objections of great force. If a man in authority strikes 
a subordinate, justice does not require him to be struck in 
return ; and, in the reverse case, if the subordinate strikes 
the superior, mere requital, the repayment of the blow, is 
not enough ; it is necessary — doubtless in the interests of 
discipline — to inflict a heavier penalty. 

4. After a few remarks on the mere analogue of justice 
presented by the relations of master to slave or householder 
to family, Aristotle turns to that far-reaching distinction, 
now so well known to us, between natural and conventional 
justice (cf Vol, I. p. 402 seg.). Persons are not wanting — 
the reference may well be to the Cynics — who banish all 
political justice to the second category, founding their 
opinion on the following reason. Everything natural is 
invariable : fire, for example, burns alike everywhere, in 
Greece as well as in Persia. Thus the conventional origin 
of justice is proved by its variations from place to place 
and from time to time. Not so, answers our philosopher. 
The natural is not necessarily the unchangeable. For 
example, the right hand is naturally the better hand ; and 
yet by custom and training the left hand can be brought 
to equal perfection. So, too, in political justice we always 
have before us a mixture of the unchangeable with the 
changing. We see that the compromise which Epicurus 
hit upon between the two theories of the origin of language 
(cf. Vol. I. p. 398), was anticipated by Ari.stotle in the 
similar controversy on the origin of justice. 



The subject of just and unjust action leads to a resump- 
tion of the problem of voluntary agency, which is now dis- 
cussed with greater exactness than before (cf. pp. 249, 250). 
An act is voluntary when a man knowingly and not in 
ignorance performs that which it is within his power to do 
or to forbear. Here the knowledge and the ignorance 
may extend to the object acted upon as well as to the 
instrument and the purpose of the action. {An example 
is given of ignorance as to the object : A strikes B without 
knowing that B is his father ; the action then falls into a 
different category from that which would apply to it if he 
had known.) Voluntary action, again, is subdivided into 
deliberate, that is, preceded by reflexion, and unpremedi- 
tated. That injuring of others which springs from passion 
is indeed unjust ; but the agent is not thereby proved to 
be unjust and bad. Of involuntary offences some are and 
some are not pardonable. The unpardonable wrongs include 
those that are done in ignorance, when the ignorance is 
neither natural nor human, that is, when it is caused by 
a bestial passion. 

5. The most important of the still remaining sections 
treats of equity and its relation to justice. Since equity is 
regarded as something praiseworthy, and yet relates to the 
same object as strict justice, there is a difficulty. How 
can the just and the equitable be both worthy of praise, 
seeing that they conflict with each other t The solution of 
the difficulty is to be found in the view that the equitable 
is indeed just, but not the justice corresponding to the law. 
It is rather a correction applied to legal justice or positive 
law. Every law has a character of universality ; still cases 
arise which clash with the general rule. In such circum- 
stances the law really means the majority of cases, not 
the totality of them ; the error of generalization is not 
imputable to the law and the law-giver, but to the nature 
of the thing legislated about. The law-giver, supposing 
him present and aware of the facts, would himself correct 
the error. xAn ancient expositor supplies an illustrative 
example. In time of war a stranger is found upon the 
city wall. The law dooms him to death, as gravely 


suspected of an understanding with the enemy. It 
appears, however, that the stranger has given the defending 
forces a signal which was to their advantage. The letter 
of the law decrees his death ; equity, taking into account 
the special nature of the case, awards him thanks and 
honour. In addition to individual cases such as this, there 
are naturally also exceptions from the primary rule of law 
which can themselves form a class and become the object 
of a new rule. 

There are two countries, Rome and England, in whose 
jurisprudence the principle of equity plays a considerable 
part. The development which the jus cuquiini or cBqiiahilc 
has received in the English courts of equity, corresponds 
fairly closely to the thoughts here expressed by Aristotle. 
This appears from the treatment of the subject by one of 
the most illustrious philosophic lawyers of modern England, 
John Austin. Referring to a supposed case that needs to 
be decided on the principles of equity, he writes : " It is 
certain that the case . . . was not present to the mind of 
the law-giver when he constructed the law. But since its 
provisions would have embraced the case, if its author had 
pursued consequentially his own general design, the judge 
. . . completes the defective provisions actually comprised 
in the law ; and supplies the defective intention which its 
maker actually entertained from the predominant purpose 
or end which moved him to make the statute." Aristotle 
paid chief attention to the negative side of the question, the 
representatives of English legal development to the positive. 
Yet the former or negative aspect is by no means alien to 
the modern science of law. It is emphasized, for example, 
by Hugo Grotius, who remarks that a law is interpreted 
according to the demands of equity when it is not applied 
to a case covered by the letter of the law but not by its 
governing T)urpose. A distinction is accordingly drawn 
between the " extensive " and the " limitative " interpre- 
tations of the law. The following is a simple illustration 
of both. Relatively to the command in the Decalogue : 
" Thou shalt do no murder," and its penal sanction, the ^imi- 
tative interpretation would require impunity for homicide 


in necessary self-defence, and the extensive would re- 
quire punishment of negligent homicide. According to 
Aristotle, the "equitable" or broad-minded judge always 
deserves preference over the pedant who is faithful to the 
letter of the law. 

6. The discussion of suicide is noteworthy, not so much 
for what it contains as for its omissions. Aristotle does 
not hint by so much as a syllable at the Platonic and 
Pythagorean conception which regards suicide as a wilful 
desertion of the post assigned to us by the Deity, and 
therefore as a mutiny against the Divine will. Just 
as little is there any recognition of the view that a man 
has no right to deprive society of his self and his 
capacities, since by so doing he repudiates an obligation. 
Nor yet is suicide acknowledged to be an offence against 
a man's self, because no one voluntarily does himself an 
injury. When, finally, the State is recognized as the party 
wronged by suicide, the nature of the penalty approved by 
the philosopher, seems to show that he here stands on the 
ground of traditional opinion. For as penalty he names 
" a certain kind of infamy ; " and at Athens the legal 
punishment for suicide was in fact a kind of infamy, 
consisting in the separate burial of the culprit's arm as the 
offending part of his body. Evidently the ground of this 
was the pollution of the community by bloodshed. 

But while Aristotle here gives effect to the current 
notions of religious expiation, he does not make piety, as 
one of the moral virtues, the subject of a particular 
investigation and exposition. Was his standpoint possibly 
that reached by Plato through the discussions of the 
" Euthyphro : " piety has no separate sphere of operation, 
but is a disposition of mind accompanying our acts in 
general (cf Vol. II. p. 363 seq) } It would still have been 
open to him to contrast his own opinion on things divine 
with that of the generality in a special section of his work. 
Nor need this plan have involved any detriment to the 
theory of the mean. It offered, indeed, an enticing oppor- 
tunity for representing true faith as the right mean be- 
tween unbelief and superstition. Perhaps considerations 


of prudence restrained him from concentrating to a focus 
theological views so likely to give offence as were his own. 
To do this would have been to provide material, in the 
handiest form, for an indictment of impiety, which, even as 
it was, he did not in the end escape. How far, occasional 
relapses apart, his principles were removed from popular 
belief, may be learnt from his condemnation of the whole 
mass of mythology, which he pronounced mere " accre- 
tion " and " husk," and of polytheism except for the 
star-gods. Even from the purified theology of his master 
Plato he is separated by a wide gulf, wide almost beyond 
belief in the light of chronology. Between the close of 
Plato's labours on the last work of his old age and the 
delivery of the lectures from which the " Nicomachean 
Ethics " sprang hardly two decades can have intervened. 
And yet the second of the heresies which in the " Laws " 
are proscribed under penalties rising as high as death, the 
denial of Divine interventions in human fortunes, is now 
treated as though it were a self-evident truth (cf. Vol. III. 
pp. 255 sqq.). Indeed, it is affirmed that the Godhead exerts 
no influence whatever on the course of the world, and hence 
none on the fates of men. 

The discourse now takes a polemical turn ; the object 
of attack is Plato himself and the theory of justice which 
he is here said to have based on a mere analogy or 
" similarity." This ends the book, and with it the section 
on the moral virtues. 


aristotle's ethics. 

(Continuation : The Intellectual Virtues and 

Weakness of Will.) 

I. After the ethical virtues come the intellectual, that 
is to say, the excellences of the intellect so far as they 
serve the interests of action. The road from the old 
subject to the new is opened by the reflexion that hitherto 
the mean has been recommended for choice, and that the 
term has designated whatever the " right rule " pronounces 
to be the mean. Hence it becomes of interest to consider 
this right rule more closely. The investigation begins 
with a logical division of wide range. The soul has on the 
one hand an irrational, and on the other a rational, part. 
Again, the objects of intellectual cognition are of twofold 
character : they are necessary or contingent, according to 
the impossibility or the possibility of their being otherwise 
than as they are. Objects of the first kind are apprehended 
by strictly scientific knowledge, those of the second by 
knowledge which may be called reflective and calculative, 
sometimes also deliberative. In order that an action may 
be performed, three elements are necessary ; besides the 
faculty of thought there must be present in the soul both 
perceptive sensation and an impulse or desire, and all these 
must co-operate. The last-named element may also be 
negatively directed. Just as in theory we have affirmation 
and negation, so in practice we have pursuit (or desire) 
and avoidance. The source of the action is purpose, and 
this again arises out of impulse or desire together with 
knowledge relating to an end. Purpose is thus represented 


as a combination of reason and desire. " For reason alone 
sets nothing in motion " — a highly important saying, which 
limits the intellect to its appointed sphere, and which 
shows Aristotle's great superiority both over ancient in- 
tellectualists such as Socrates, and over modern rationalists 
such as Samuel Clarke or Henry More. 

The different species of knowledge are now passed in 
review ; here we confine ourselves to essentials, because 
of the lack of exact correspondence between ancient and 
modern terminology. The realm of the contingent com- 
prises the objects of making or production and of doing 
or action. The first are the concern of art, and the 
second of prudence, that is, of practical wisdom dealing 
with what is useful or hurtful to man. As an example 
of this prudence Pericles is named. Here, evidently, 
Aristotle has followed the traditional estimate of this 
statesman par excellence, rather than his own, which, as 
the " Constitution of Athens " shows us, was decidedly 
unenthusiastic. Nous, or " reason," is spoken of as origi- 
nating the knowledge of principles. " Wisdom " is taken 
in two senses. On the one hand, it is attributed to the 
most excellent artists, and here means nothing else than 
•' the perfection of art." On the other hand, says Aristotle, 
we also speak of the " wise " without any limitation to a 
special sphere. We then understand the term as referring, 
not merely to the knowledge of that which is deduced from 
principles, but also to the knowledge of the principles 
themselves. In this sense wisdom includes within itself 
both reason and science. Its objects are stated to be " the 
things which are most august by nature," This pre- 
eminence is elaborately justified by an appeal to the 
relative character of prudence or practical wisdom, which 
is restricted to human affairs. It would be vain to impugn 
this order of precedence on the ground that man is " the 
highest in rank of terrestrial beings." True, but a glance 
at the universe is enough to show that there arc other 
beings, far diviner in their nature than man. We pause 
here to ask whether Aristotle's judgment on the relation 
of man to the universe is not sounder than that of those 


almost contemporary thinkers who, like Comte or P^euer- 
bach, desired to substitute the " religion of humanity" for 
the veneration of universal powers. Far sounder, we 
think, in spite of that belief in the absolute changelessness 
of the stars which the progress of science has disproved. 

2, The achievements of philosophers such as Thales or 
Anaxagoras are rewarded by mankind with all possible 
titles of honour ; they are said to be the works of genius, 
magnificent, wonderful, but at the same time unfruitful, 
since their authors have not striven after " human goods." 
These latter are the aim of practical wisdom, a quality in 
which special experience is often worth more than know- 
ledge of the universal. If, for example, a man knows that 
light meat is digestible and therefore beneficial, but does 
not know what kinds of meat are light, he is inferior in 
practice to the man who has no knowledge of the general 
rule but is acquainted with the wholesomeness of poultry. 

Aristotle goes on to say that among the objects of 
practical wisdom a leading place is taken by politics. The 
" architectonic " or governing art in this sphere is legislation, 
with which is contrasted politics in the narrower sense, the 
provision of ordinances and decrees to meet the needs of 
the moment, a craft which serves as an instrument in the 
larger life of the State. Mention is made of the widespread 
opinion that practical wisdom principally concerns the 
individual, so that the man whose mind is fixed solely on 
his own private advantage is regarded as the true example 
of this kind of wisdom. In opposition to this view, Aristotle 
hints his conviction that man is intended by Nature for the 
life of the family and the State, so that when isolated and 
pursuing his private advantage he does not gain even that. 

The investigation returns to the theme already glanced 
at : the chief object of practical wisdom is detail, the indi- 
vidual thing. Occasion is taken to draw a significant dis- 
tinction between that knowledge which is accessible to 
inexperienced youths and that which requires a richer 
experience and therefore a longer space of time before it 
can be acquired. Geometry and other kinds of mathematics 
are placed in the first category ; but even natural science, 


still more political wisdom and prudence in the affairs of 
life, need a riper experience. The possibility of reaching 
a high level in mathematics even during boyhood is 
explained by the clause : " perhaps because these are 
matters of abstraction." That is to say, a minimum of 
experience is here sufficient ; for in Aristotle's view even 
mathematical knowledge grows in the soil of induction. 
We note that the history of science has amply corroborated 
this observation of Aristotle. It records instances of early 
maturity and even creative power by which this department 
of research is distinguished above all others. Abel, Bolzano, 
Eisenstein, Galois, Gauss, Lord Kelvin, Newton, Pascal — 
all these before the age of twenty, or just after reaching it, 
had already done mathematical work of importance, some of 
them, indeed, as pioneers. Truths the knowledge of which 
depends on comprehensive experience may, it is said, be 
"repeated " by the young, but "they lack belief" or inner 
conviction. In another context the same thought is 
expressed perhaps still more aptly : beginners " string 
propositions together without understanding them," even 
when there is no lack of verbal comprehension ; for the 
mind, so Aristotle continues, " must grow into unity with 
the object." 

There follow somewhat lengthy disquisitions dealing 
with particular terms such as " judiciousness," " good 
sense," " intelligence," for the most part written with a 
polemical intention directed against Plato. These we 
pass over, partly because of their slender fruitfulness, 
partly of the lack, to which we have already alluded, 
of precise correspondence between the Greek termino- 
logy and our own. But in spite of this difficulty, we 
must dwell a little on what is said of Nous (cf, p. 207). 
Its intuitive character is here brought into so great 
prominence that even the gulf between the most general 
principles and the most particular perceptions disappears 
in comparison. Direct intuition, indeed, is described as 
characteristic of both the extreme points of all knowledge. 
Immediate certainty is ascribed on the one hand to 
the supreme principles of reason, that is, the logical 


axioms, and on the other to individual perceptions, which 
make it possible to apply general propositions to par- 
ticular cases. Both alike are contrasted with all mediate 
knowledge. The individual perceptions complete chains 
of reasoning which issue in practical application by 
supplying them with their last links in the form of such 
propositions as : this particular thing is " of such and such 
a nature," that is, it possesses the marks or generic 
qualities which condition the applicability to the case in 
hand of general proi^ositions already won. Thus if reason 
and sense-perception sometimes change places in this dis- 
cussion, it comes to much the same as our use of the word 
" see " in respect of knowledge far removed from the sphere 
of sense perceptions, as when we say : " Any one can see 
. . ." or, " Who can fail to see that . ...''" and so on. 

3. The closing section of the book consists of a dialec- 
tical tourney in which Aristotle first piles up objections of 
every kind, and then clears them away. Which of these 
objections are his own and which not, it is impossible to 
decide with certainty. The first question relates to the 
utility of practical wisdom or prudence and of the higher 
wisdom. The second is said not to be concerned with any 
becoming or beginning to be, and therefore not with the 
conditions of happiness. Practical wisdom does indeed 
possess the advantage of being so concerned, but what need 
have we of it if we admit that, although this kind of wisdom 
deals with what is just, good, and profitable to man, yet 
the knowledge of all these things makes us none the more 
able to do them } And yet there is now a unanimous 
opinion — in the circle of the Platonists, that is — to the effect 
that the virtues are habits or qualities of will. And if any 
one urges that practical wisdom favours the acquisition 
of these qualities, it would still remain useless alike to 
those who possess the qualities already and to those 
who lack them. In respect of this second class of persons 
it is observed that it makes no difference whether we 
possess the desired qualities of will ourselves or obey 
others who possess them. We all wish to have good 
health, but we do not therefore all of us study medicine. 


Lastly, it seems odd that practical wisdom, while inferior 
to the other wisdom in value and dignity, is at the same 
time superior to it, as having sovereign authority over 
every department of life. 

Now begins the series of replies. In the first place, the 
two excellences under consideration would still be worth 
pursuit as the perfection of one of the two parts of the soul, 
even if they led to nothing further. But they do lead further. 
Wisdom, in fact, does not resemble the art of medicine 
which produces health so much as health itself ; it makes 
the same kind of contribution to happiness. It is a part 
of complete virtue, and as such blesses those who possess 
it and practise it. This practice or active exercise is always 
strongly emphasized by Aristotle, particularly in opposi- 
tion to Xenocrates, who regarded happiness as guaranteed 
by the mere possession of virtue. It is this tacit polemic 
that is responsible for the violent hypothesis of a man 
possessed of virtue slumbering away his life (cf. p. 243). 
Further, the task set us is accomplished by practical wisdom 
in combination with ethical virtue. The latter ensures 
that the right goal is pursued, the former provides the 
appropriate means. 

The discussion which follows provides an apt criticism 
of Socratic intellectualism, running, it is true, on lines 
which Plato had already opened up in the " Statesman " 
(cf. Vol. III. p. 184). It was but a half-truth which Socrates 
stated when he affirmed the virtues to be knowledge, or 
varieties of practical wisdom. Such wisdom is not the 
essence of virtue, but an indispensable condition for its 
existence. It is impossible to be perfectly good without 
wisdom, but it is also impossible to be perfectly wise 
without the virtue of the will. In our opinion a bright 
light is here shed on the connexion between character and 
intellect, on the ruin which comes to the mind when moral 
disorder fills the soul with falsehood. The indispensability 
of wisdom seems, it is said, to be contradicted by the fact 
that there is a kind of natural virtue, that there are 
dispositions and temperaments which incline towards the 
good, as may be noted in the case of children and even of 


animals. But they all need the guidance of reason, just as 
a powerful human or animal body, if bereft of the light of 
the eyes, falls all the more heavily — an illustration which 
can hardly fail to remind us of the Cyclops blinded by 
Ulysses. The intellectual element, too, supplies the bond 
which gives the virtues their unity — a unity on which it is 
easy to be led into error by the observation that hardly 
any one is equally favoured by Nature in respect of all of 
them. That skill in the choice of means which results from 
practical wisdom deserves our praise when the end is good ; 
in the contrary case, " capacity for everything " (Travovpyia) 
is hardly to be distinguished from knavery. There still 
remains the solution of the last puzzle on the relations 
of the two kinds of wisdom. It is just as false, we are told, 
to say that the higher wisdom is subordinate to practical 
wisdom, and consequently a higher part of the soul to a 
lower, as it would be to say that health is subordinate to 
medicine. Medical precepts are not addressed to health, 
but issued for the sake of health ; practical and theoretical 
wisdom are related in just the same way. 

Any one who gives the book an impartial reading, 
equally avoiding both censoriousness and blind worship of 
the author, will hardly deny that it is rich in fine observation, 
ingenious thought, and subtle demonstration, but that it 
yet fails to perform the promise with which it opens. This 
book was to have cleared up the mystery of the mean. 
The " right rule " mentioned at the beginning is indeed 
once more alluded to towards the end, but only in the 
statement that we have to act not only according to it but 
also ivitJi it. In other words, we must not merely conform 
to the rule, but have it fully present to our consciousness. 
It will hardly be maintained by any one that either this 
statement or the other contents of this section can be 
regarded as providing the doctrine of the mean with an 
unassailable basis, or as giving it any other significance 
than an appeal to the tact and experience of the " excellent " 
or " practically wise " man. 

4. Of what use is all the power of the directing intellect 
if the executing will refuses its services } This unspoken 


question forms the bridge between the sixth book and the 
seventh, between the doctrine of the intellectual virtues 
and the doctrine of the feeble will to which we now pass 
on. Aristotle himself speaks of making a " new beginning." 
He returns, in fact, to the ethical virtues already dealt 
with, and adds a postscript in which he treats a particular 
subject, self-control, more thoroughly than had been 
feasible in the former summary review. Three things, he 
begins, are worthy of reprobation in the ethical sphere : 
badness, lack of will-power, and brutality — the last, to be 
sure, being somewhat rare. The first has been sufficiently 
treated already, the third will be touched on afterwards ; it 
is now the time to speak of weakness of will and the 
opposite quality. A remark of far-reaching importance 
follows on the subject of method. First the facts are to 
be stated, then the puzzles or difficulties which present 
themselves are to be discussed, and the commonly held 
opinions, or at least the chief of them. When the difficulties 
have been solved and the current opinions are left estab- 
lished, then a sufficient account of the subject has been 
given. We have here a revelation, more undisguised than 
any to be found elsewhere, of the strongly conservative 
strain in Aristotle's mind to which we have already referred 
in passing (cf p. 57). Current opinion, when purged or 
corroborated by the settlement of real or apparent contra- 
dictions, is identified with absolute truth so far as concerns 
questions relating to the conduct of life. The rule, to be 
sure, is not applied to all cases without exception. It was 
impossible, for example, to establish in this manner the 
superiority of the contemplative life, not merely to the little- 
esteemed life of pleasure, but also to the highly regarded 
life of politics. But whatever the range of validity accorded 
to the rule, the mere fact that it is set up at all is above 
measure characteristic of its author. A vast gulf separates 
him from the champions of revolutionary moral reforms. 
The Cynics, indeed, so far from starting with a presump- 
tion in favour of common opinion, did rather the reverse : 
they contended that generally recognized standards were 
delusion and empty vapour. 


5. Our readers will remember the fundamental doctrine 
of Socratic intellectualism. It denies the existence of 
what is usually called the victory of desire or pleasure over 
wisdom ; according to it no one ever acts against his better 
knowledge : to acknowledge something as right and give 
the acknowledgment no sequel in act is outside the power 
of the mentally sound, it is nothing else than a form of 
insanity. We have already endeavoured (Vol. II. p. G'j^ 
to extract and do full justice to the element of truth 
" contained in this exaggeration." What Aristotle here 
considers is a modification of the Socratic doctrine, the 
work, probably, of Academics. The invincibility which 
Socrates affirmed was now said to be the property of true 
knowledge, not of the mere opinion which so often takes 
its place. Opinion is a feeble thing when pitted against 
the strength of desires ; no wonder, then, that pleasure 
gains the victory in the contest. 

This is the first of the six puzzles ; the second cannot 
be reproduced without some straining of language. The 
abstinent person is said to be at the same time the healthy- 
minded person {aiofppcjov, cf. Vol. II. p. 300). And yet his 
abstinence can manifest itself only in conflict with strong 
and evil desires, whereas it is foreign to the nature of 
healthy-mindedness to have any evil desires at all, and 
still more so to have them in excess. If, on the other hand, 
the desires which the abstinent person overcomes are not 
evil but good, the quality in his character by which he 
resists them is bad, and if so all abstinence would not be 
praiseworthy. Nor is any special praise due to the conquest 
of desires which, though evil, are weak. 

Thirdly : if strength of will (this is now the shade of 
meaning which is borne by the Greek word which we have 
just been obliged to render " abstinence ") causes a man to 
hold stubbornly to his opinion, it is a bad thing when that 
opinion happens to be false. And if the contrary quality, 
weakness of will, makes us inclined to abandon our opinions, 
there will similarly be a praiseworthy kind of weak will, such 
as that exhibited by Neoptolemus in the " Philoctetes " of 
Sophocles. The son of Achilles deserves praise for being 


moved by his sense of truth to revolt against the con- 
viction which Ulysses had implanted in his mind, namely, 
that it was incumbent on him to beguile Philoctetes into 
sailing for Troy. 

The fourth of the puzzles is called " sophistic " by 
Aristotle himself. It is an argument to prove that 
weakness of will coupled with want of understanding is 
not a vice but a virtue. In such a case, it is urged, the 
understanding makes a bad choice and the weak will 
corrects it. The underlying assumption may be illustrated 
by the instance of a conspirator who through weakness of 
will fails to perform his promised part in an assassination, 
or by that of a religious fanatic who holds it his duty to 
kill the heretic but lacks the will power necessary for 
the act. 

The fifth difficulty is supplied by a transference to the 
present subject of a paradox which we have already 
encountered in the " Lesser Hippias " (Vol. II. p. 291 seq). 
Which is the better, it is asked the man who indulges his 
desires from perverse convictions or the man who succumbs 
to them from weakness of will .'* The first, it is answered, 
because there is a possibility of changing his convictions, 
and by this means he may more easily than the^ other be 
led to abandon the false paths. 

Finally we have this question : If self-control and 
weakness of will are to be found in every sphere of action, 
who is the man that is to be called weak-willed absolutely, 
since all the varieties of weak will can hardly be found 
united in any one person .'' 

6. Aristotle now proceeds to the solution of these 
puzzles. He begins by contesting the relevancy of the 
distinction drawn in the first paradox. Not only know- 
ledge but mere opinion as well- so his thought may be 
stated is often maintained with extreme stubbornness. A 
weakly founded opinion need not be a weakly acting 
opinion, incapable of powerfully affecting the holder's mind. 
Heraclitus is mentioned as an instance, the suggestion 
being that the tone of oracular certainty with which 
the Ephesian proclaimed his tenets is sorely out of 


proportion with their objective basis, Aristotle might 
have gone further, he might have adduced the madness 
of fanatical crowds and the " fixed ideas " of the insane. 
But even so he would have proved no more than that the 
objective justification and the subjective certainty of a 
conviction do not necessarily run parallel. Outside the 
province of authority, tradition, and religion there are 
wide fields within which such a parallelism does in fact 
exist. Temptations triumph over vacillating, confused, or 
inconsistent opinions much more easily than over such 
items of knowledge as that twice two are four or that 
prussic acid kills. To assail this position would have been 
vain labour. 

Further attempts at solution greatly expand the 
questions under discussion. The special problem : How 
is it possible to act against one's better knowledge } gives 
place to the more general problem : What influence has 
knowledge on will .'' Intelligibly enough, the creator of 
logic is not content to use such ideas as " knowledge " or 
" cognition " without subjecting them to a careful analysis. 
He firstly points out the ambiguity of these words, they 
denote on the one hand the mere possession of dormant or 
latent knowledge, on the other its active exercise, the 
having a thing before the mind here and now. Secondly, 
distinctions are drawn between the different objects of 
knowledge, the different kinds of propositions or complexes 
of propositions. It is possible to know a general rule but 
not its applicability to a special case. Again, this ignorance 
may sometimes be caused by ignorance of the minor 
premiss, sometimes by mere unacquaintance with a par- 
ticular object. Here is an example of this second case. 
Dry food is wholesome ; food of such and such a quality is 
dry : both these propositions may be known to me, but I 
may still fail in judging whether the food before me has or 
has not that quality which indicates dryness. 

The third argument distinguishes two kinds of potential 
knowledge. On the one hand we may have knowledge 
which is simply not actual ; but on the other, knowledge 
may be impeded in its actuality — sleep, drunkenness, 


madness are impediments of the kind considered. The 
emotions, too, have their place here. Aristotle reckons 
persons swayed by violent emotions among the number of 
those who cannot wake and use the knowledge slumbering 
within them ; he even represents their bodily organs as 
being moved directly by the emotions ; and thus he makes 
a very near approach to the Socratic standpoint which he 
has previously censured. 

The next and fourth attempt at solution seems, in 
Aristotle's opinion, to be the one which really settles the 
question. It leads to the paradoxical result that the 
process' named by us a victory of the desires over the 
intellect is itself not without an intellectual element. 
Weakness of will is said to be in a certain sense " a 
product of opinion and reflexion." Our mind harbours at 
one and the same time two syllogisms leading to contrary 
conclusions. For example : " All sweet things are to be 
enjoyed ; the thing before us is sweet ; therefore we are to 
enjoy the thing before us," And on the other hand : 
" That which is sweet is not wholesome ; this thing is 
sweet ; therefore this thing is not wholesome." Desire, 
having predominance within the mind, now causes us to 
mistake our way, when we set out to make a choice, and 
reach the hurtful instead of the helpful syllogism. It seems 
to us that we have here a culminating example, hardly to 
be surpassed, of a tendency which characterizes Aristotle, 
though he sometimes happily overcomes it, namely, the 
tendency to see in man a syllogistic thinking-machine 
(cf. p. 190). The idea does indeed contain an element of 
truth. The pleasure-giving objects which at any given 
moment solicit our will, as also the feelings of pleasure or 
the reverse which are to be expected from them, may be 
assigned to definite categories, known to us from previous 
experience ; and this is a truly intellectual factor in the 
process of choice. If Aristotle further represents this act 
of classification as performed by aid of the strict forms of 
the syllogism, it may quite well be supposed that his 
intention was to supply a description which should be 
schematic and transparently clear rather than absolutely 


true to nature. We have been unwilling to pass over 
in sil'ence this last way out of the difficulty, although we 
are hardly able to rest satisfied with it as a final account of 
the matter. 

In any case the third of the solutions offered by 
Aristotle appears to us to stand higher than the fourth. 
In order to make it a complete solution nothing more is 
lacking than an explicit reference to a phenomenon 
which, as far as our knowledge goes, John Locke was the 
first to set in the foreground of the discussion. In the 
majority of the cases with which we are here concerned 
our action is not determined by any kind of anticipa- 
tion of the consequences. We act under the stress of 
" a present uneasiness " which, at the moment, has the 
predominance in the mind. This pressure may be strong 
enough to outweigh all expectations of the future ; it may 
compel us to forbear all calculation of the pain or pleasure 
which may afterwards arise out of our action. The lamp 
of the intellect is not covered over or dimmed, it is 
absolutely extinguished. Socrates was right to speak of 
madness ; he ought only to have added that this psychical 
anomaly is not a rarity and an exception but an everyday 

7. At length Aristotle turns to the second of his 
puzzles. That the abstinent person must be at the same 
time " healthy-minded " is merely a postulate of linguistic 
usage, which confounds two neighbouring but by no 
means identical qualities. For the abstinent person truly 
cannot be fully free from the possession of evil desires, 
while healthy-mindedness excludes the possession of them. 
Perhaps we shall come nearest to Aristotle's thought if we 
say that two phases are here to be distinguished in the 
formation of character, two stages of development which 
because of their similarity, are easily confused. The 
abstinent person is not yet healthy-minded, and the 
healthy-minded person is no longer abstinent. For the 
first, evil pleasures have still a charm, which he is able 
to resist ; for the second, they have lost their charm 


Fine distinctions again serve for the solution of the 
third puzzle, in which it is asked whether strength of will 
or persistence may not in some circumstances be an evil. 
" Obstinacy " or " indocility," as well as " opinionatedness," 
are marked off from the domain of will-power. Concern- 
ing the opinionated it is said, not without wit, that they 
resemble the weak-willed and self-indulgent, that is, 
those who are ruled by pleasure and pain, more than the 
abstinent and the strong-willed. For the contentious 
person's love of debate and victory, his dread of defeat in 
the conflict of opinions, assign him to the first rather than 
to the second category. Returning to the example from 
Sophocles, Ari-stotle remarks that Neoptolemus certainly 
was induced by pleasure to break his promise to Ulysses, 
but it was by a noble pleasure, the pleasure of truthfulness. 
An answer is at the same time provided for the question 
which that example illustrated, whether there is not a 
" praiseworthy weakness of will." The existence of such a 
quality is denied on the ground that the essence of weak 
will is not the being overcome by pleasure in general but 
by ignoble pleasure. 

Aristotle clearly did not think it necessary to discuss 
separately the fourth of his puzzles, which he described as 
" sophistical " in his preliminary statement. He might 
have remarked that while want of courage or perseverance 
may in special cases turn out to be profitable instead of 
injurious, this does not affect the truth that the vast 
majority of cases verify the tendency of these qualities to 
injure their possessor. 

The fifth puzzle raised the question as to which is the 
better — the man who is vicious from conviction, or the one 
who succumbs at times to the allurements of vice. In the 
first statement of the paradoxes the former was preferred ; 
this preference is now withdrawn and impugned. It may 
be said that in first propounding the problem Aristotle 
regarded it from the purely intellectualistic standpoint. 
The firm but false conviction can be corrected by instruction, 
and is thus more curable than the lack of conviction. But 
now he exchanges the intellectualistic for the properly 


ethical standpoint ; instead of convictions amenable to 
instruction we now read of habits which harden the soul. 
It is habit that governs the " profligate " man, cuts him off 
from remorse and prevents his reformation. But his 
counterpart, the man who errs from weakness, is subject to 
remorse and therefore capable of improvement. 

The sixth of the puzzles and the answer to it both 
seem somewhat strange to us. Undoubtedly weakness of 
will is not like a smooth surface free from all irregularity. 
The man of strong character seldom shows his strength 
equally in all directions, and similarly the weak-willed man 
is as a rule more susceptible to temptations from one 
quarter than from another. But this two-fold fact need not 
prevent us from speaking of some individuals simply as 
strong-willed and of others as weak-willed. Aristotle's 
mode of distinguishing between universal and partial 
weakness of will can hardly be deemed above reproach. 
He contends that where the pleasure supplying the motive 
is not one of those given us by nature, the predicate " weak- 
willed " is applied only with a qualification, limiting it to 
the special field concerned ; it is so, for example, with 
ambition or avarice. On the other hand, the qualification 
is dropped where natural or bodily pleasures form the 
motive. Yet it may very well be objected that even in 
this latter case there is no lack of individual differences ; 
gluttony, for example, is distinguished from drunkenness. 
So much at most seems to be true, namely, that according 
to the nature of the (!ase, we find ourselves emphasizing 
now the strength of the predisposing impulse, now the 
weakness of the resisting factor of will. It is, in fact, to 
cases of the latter kind rather than to others that we as 
well as Aristotle are inclined to apply such terms as " self- 
indulgence," " want of moderation," or " profligacy." This 
last reproach — to quote one of the remarks here let fall 
— is more fully deserved by the man who inclines to excess 
though his desires are weak than by the one whose 
desires are violent in themselves. " For what could he be 
expected to do if he had violent desires ? " Here, too, we 
have a division of inclinations into those whihc are by 


nature noble, those which are the opposite, and those 
which lie between, arising as they do out of bodily needs. 
Even the first class, we are told, admits of an excess 
which is blameable, though never, to be sure, absolutely 
vicious ; reference is made, by way of illustration, to 
Niobe, whose love for her children led her to challenge 
Leto. In the second category are placed the inclinations 
peculiar to bestiality or brutishness, as well as those which 
depend on morbid disposition or habits. 

We are further told that it is less disgraceful to be 
overcome by anger than by sensual desires. For anger, 
though it often misunderstands the voice of reason, does in 
a measure listen to that voice. It is compared with those 
over-zealous servants who before they have exactly caught 
their master's commands hurry off to perform what they 
suppose to be his bidding. Thus the passionate man 
receives the impression that an insult has been offered him ; 
and immediately, without previous careful reflexion, he sets 
about defending himself and retaliating. Thus he does in 
a certain sense listen to reason ; but the sensual man 
listens only to desire. There is another ground for judging 
more leniently the excesses of passionate anger, and that 
is its freedom from concealment and intrigue. For the 
aristocratically minded philosopher the frank and fearless 
emotion of defiance is the nobleman in the slavish crew of 
sly and deceitful desires. He even thinks it worth while 
to quote the words of a poetess who called the goddess of 
love "craft-weaving." 

8. This is not the only application of poetry to be 
found in this part of the work. Quotations, anecodotes, 
even scraps of folk-lore, follow each other in variegated 
succession. This unusual opulence, and at the same time 
the striking negligence of the style, provoke the conjecture 
that this section of the lecture course lacked more than 
others the sifting and revising care of an editor. 

This superfluity finds a contrast in the curtness and 
baldness of the closing chapters of the book. Here we 
have the one portion of the work the genuineness of which 
has been questioned with some show of reason. It is a 


treatise on pleasure ; and the lengthy discussion devoted 
to the same subject in the tenth book seems to ignore it 
altogether. There we find no backward glance, here no 
anticipatory hint. As even the ancients saw, this is not a 
little surprising. We are entitled to infer that the two 
sections were written down each without any regard to the 
other. But this is as far as we have any right to go. For 
the contradictions which have been supposed to exist 
between the contents of the two sections are merely 
apparent. Take the polemic directed against despisers of 
pleasure, such as Speusippus, and without doubt Antis- 
thenes as well. We must not for a moment lose sight of 
the predominantly dialectical character of the discussion. 
Referring to certain arguments used by the other side, he 
says, " This does not show that pleasure is not the highest 
good, much less that it is no good at all." But it does not 
in the least follow that the author (who could not then be 
Aristotle, nor Eudemus either) represents pleasure as the 
highest good. We regard these chapters as a preliminary 
sketch. This matter was perhaps inserted here by the 
editor, just as the rough students' notes had been before, in 
order to fill a gap in the text (cf. p. 241). We shall return 
to some of the matter here contained when we come to treat 
of the last book. For the present it will suffice to draw 
attention to a thought of great refinement and extensive 
application. It is not enough, we read in a certain 
passage, to confute an error ; we must know and state its 
cause. Putting this sentence in its tersest form : " Men 
refute only what they explain," we are reminded of 
Comte's profound words : " Men destroy only what they 
have replaced." But it is now time to pass on to the 
eighth and ninth books, which treat of friendship. 



aristotle's ethics. 

(Continuation : Friendship.) 

I. Two books out of ten, one-fifth of the whole work on 
ethics, are devoted to friendship. To us the disproportion 
seems so striking that we can hardly forbear inquiring 
the cause of this preference. Granted that under the term 
" friendship " many things are here comprehended to which 
we are not accustomed to give that name, in particular 
the sense of unity among fellow-citizens, still the principal 
theme of the two books is friendship in the proper sense, 
friendship between men in all its grades, from mere 
sympathy without deeds up to self-sacrificing devotion. 
There is hardly a mention of the erotic bond between 
men which Plato made so familiar to us. Aristotle, who 
like the whole of that age was clearly influenced herein 
by the Cynics, regards the love of boys almost solely as 
an unnatural inclination, and in speaking of " brutishness," 
adduces it in company with other flagrant abnormalities. 
In his mind it is clearly divested of every touch of ideality 
or romance. But the result which we might have ex- 
pected does not follow. We do not find that the process 
which we have described as the depreciation of woman 
(cf Vol. II. p. 382) is at once reversed, or that the senti- 
mental love of woman steps into the place left vacant. 
It is true that indications are not wanting which mark the 
first beginnings of this change ; we may remind the reader 
of the manner in which our philosopher's will mentioned 
his first wife (cf. p. 25). But these beginnings were all 
that as yet appeared. In the didactic works of Aristotle 


which have reached us, the love of woman is regarded in 
one of three aspects — as an impulse towards the satis- 
faction of a natural need, as a blameable excess in the 
profligate, as a motive for encroachment on the rights of 
husbands. The marriage relation itself is assigned a 
highly dignified but modest position in the circle of friend- 
ships. A few lines suffice to set forth its character as an 
association that goes beyond the immediate aim of nature, 
that promotes the common welfare of the couple by the 
exchange of specifically different services, that in addition 
produces joy as well as benefit by means of the excellence 
(when this is present) of both parties. Truly an unpre- 
tentious niche in the splendid temple of friendship ! A 
change of taste was clearly coming over the age which 
may be tersely summed up in the remark that the senti- 
mental love of boys was now extinguished, but that the 
sentimental love of women had not yet been kindled. 

The world, however, had not long to wait. K year 
after Aristotle's death, Menander, the leader of the New 
Comedy in which the love-match holds supreme place, 
gained his first dramatic victory. He had probably been 
preceded by Philemon. The change was assisted by the 
decay of public spirit and the corresponding growth in 
importance of private interests. This social change 
obviously had its effect upon Aristotle as well as others, 
and in combination with the other causes that have been 
mentioned caused a greater space to be devoted to the 
cultivation of friendship, though this relation was not yet 
marked by the fervour and emotionality which it was 
destined to exhibit in the circles of the Epicureans. Still, 
both this glance forwards and a glance backwards to the 
celebrated Pythagorean brotherhoods (cf. Vol. I. p. 147) 
indicate to us the source from which Aristotle's intensive 
cultivation of friendship may well have sprung. He spent 
by far the greater part of his life as a member of two 
Societies which have been rightly named " federations of 
men : " first the Platonic Academy, then the Peripatetic 
School founded by himself. These were associations 
which for many men lasted from youth to old age, which, 


beginning for them as students' corporations, gradually 
became transformed into societies of researchers, akin to 
our academies, but far surpassing them in the warmth and 
intimacy of their common life. Now and again Aristotle 
involuntarily betrays the origin of his ideals by letting 
slip, in passages purporting to treat of friendship in general, 
such phrases as " community of studies and thoughts." 

2. One word on the position occupied by these two 
books, relatively to the others. In our opinion it is the 
best conceivable, indeed the only appropriate one. It has 
been objected that the treatment of friendship would have 
been more suitably placed immediately after that of justice 
as the social virtue. The idea is not a bad one, but there 
are weighty objections to it. The author of the " Ethics " 
clearly attached great importance to the plan of treating 
all the " virtues " together, and, in particular, bringing the 
two main classes of them into close conjunction. Nothing 
but this wish could have led him to leave " weakness of 
will " till after the intellectual virtues instead of taking it 
immediately after the moral virtues. Supposing, now, 
that he had placed his exposition of friendship next after 
that of justice — that is, between the fifth and sixth books — 
he would thereby have driven a great wedge between the 
two main groups of virtues, and so gravely impeded the 
presentation of the theory of virtue as a compact and 
connected whole. Thus, since according to Aristotle's 
own words friendship is rather an accompaniment of the 
virtues than one of their number, the treatment of this 
subject was necessarily placed after that of the virtues but 
before the discussion of their goal, happiness, towards the 
realization of which this same friendship renders the most 
signal service. 

3. The exposition begins with a tribute of the warmest 
praise to its subject. Friendship is exalted even above 
justice, on the ground that vv^here friendship is present 
justice is not needed, whereas the just cannot dispense 
with friendship. At this point a remarkable saying occurs. 
He who has found his way back to human habitations 
after being lost in the wilderness gains, we are told, a 


sense of the nearness and kinship of man to man. Neither 
the distinction between Greek and barbarian, nor that 
between bond and free, perverts the pure human feeling of 
this passage. It is something almost unique in Aristotle, 
an all but isolated touch of cosmopolitan sentiment. A 
ray of that new light which had been kindled by Hippias 
and the Cynics, and which was destined shortly to shine 
with such brilliance in the Stoa, has strayed even into the 
soul of our philosopher. 

Here follows the customary dialectical skirmishing, or 
discussion of puzzles. Two old questions are touched 
upon. The first asks whether the need of an unlike com- 
plement, or the attraction of like to like forms the chief 
motive for friendship, the notion of which is expanded in 
the cosmic sense familiar to us from Plato's " Lysis " and 
"Symposium" (cf. Vol. II. p. 385 seq.). The second 
concerns the loveable, which is reduced, in the last resort, 
to the good and the pleasant. 

Friendships contracted for the sake of advantage or 
pleasure are declared to be of uncertain continuance ; and 
it is added that the first species preponderates with the 
old, the second with the young. The most perfect kind 
of friendship is that of good men. It is permanent, but 
rare, since few possess the requisite qualifications for it. 
After the friendship of the equal comes that of the unequal, 
as between parents and children, husband and wife, the 
holder of authority and the subordinate. In regard to 
equality there is a notable difi"erence between friendship 
and justice. Proportional equality is predominant in the 
second, absolute equality in the first. This thought is 
illustrated by an extreme case. The wide interval pre- 
vents friendship with one who is very greatly the higher 
in rank, especially with the gods. Now comes the strange 
question whether one friend can wish that the other may 
become a god. A negative answer is given. For the 
consequence would be that the two would cease to be 
friends, and the one who was raised to divine rank would 
be deprived of a good thing, namely, friendship. (Perhaps 
this problem, which at first seems extremely artificial and 


far-fetched, arose out of the philosopher's relation to the 
deified Alexander.) Cases, however, arise in which 
equality in friendship is dispensed with. It is so with 
flatterers, who condemn themselves to inferiority, and in 
dealing with whom men are ready to bring their own 
superiority into prominence. Again, men often prefer to 
be honoured rather than to be loved, for example, in their 
relations to the powerful. To stand high in the regard 
of such opens up a prospect of help or favour in case 
of need ; and a man accepts this situation as a kind of 
symbol of his own prosperity. Men desire, further, to be 
honoured by those who have high character and know- 
ledge in order that their own good opinion of themselves 
may be strengthened. But while the being honoured is 
thus often sought for as a means to other ends, the being 
loved is an end in itself, and therefore something higher. 
If, however, the desire to have one's love returned is 
strong, the impulse to manifest one's own love in action 
is still stronger. By way of illustration we are referred to 
those mothers who — clearly under the stress of circum- 
stances, such as crushing poverty or illegitimate parent- 
hood — allow their children to grow up abroad, but yet 
rejoice in their prosperity and love them dearly, even 
when no sign of love or respect reaches them from their 
estranged offspring. 

4. We come now to what seems at first a somewhat 
strange digression on political constitutions and their 
degenerate forms. This leads, partly to a comparison of 
the different types of friendship with the different types 
of government, partly to a discussion of the influence 
which is exercised on the private relations and characters 
of the citizens by the form of the political community 
under which they live. We may mention, as coming 
under the first head, the apt and familiar comparison of 
original patriarchal monarchy with the relation of parent to 
child, more particularly with paternal authority. We note, 
too, in the same connexion, the " aristocratic " character 
which is here said to attach to the relation of husband 
and wife, a predominance of the higher element which 


degenerates into " oligarchy " when the husband encroaches 
on the sphere of activity proper to the wife, and so grasps 
total authority for himself. In regard to the second head, 
nothing is perhaps more remarkable than a saying about 
democracy, to the effect that under this form of govern- 
ment friendship is promoted among the citizens because 
" many things are common to those who are equal." 
Fraternity, we might say, is here deduced from equality. 
We, perhaps, should be inclined to expect the same result 
from Cassarism, which resolves society, as it were, into its 
component atoms. But Aristotle ascribes precisely the 
opposite effect to tyranny, possibly on account of the fre- 
quent and successful practice by Greek tyrants of the 
motto " divide et impera," 

Next, we have a lengthy treatment of the following 
theme : friendship directed towards profit is a fruitful 
source of discord, and the same is in general true of 
friendships based on inequality. For example, the superior 
friend and the needy friend will raise conflicting claims, 
the one pressing his superiority, the other his need, and 
both striving to gain the greater share of the profit which 
the friendship jnelds. The paradoxically sounding decision 
is arrived at that both sides are right. Each deserves a 
preference, but not both the same preference. The friend 
who is inferior in position may rightly claim the greater 
share of profit, the higher-placed friend is entitled to a 
greater share of honour. The State acts on this principle 
when it pays higher honour to the more eflScient, but 
provides more ample succour for its needier members. 

5. Kindred problems continue to occupy the opening 
portion of the ninth book. Among other things, the erotic 
relation between males is considered, but only in its more 
mercenary form. It thus appears as a variety of that 
" friendship" which is directed towards pleasure and profit, 
— that is, to something accessory and fleeting — not to the 
permanent and central elements of the personality ; it is 
therefore of short duration. 

There follows what has been called the casuistry of 
friendship. There is no absolutely universal standard, we 


are told, by which to decide between the conflicting claims 
which may be made upon us by parents, it may be, on 
the one hand and by possessors of special knowledge on 
the other, or, again, between the claims of benefactors and 
those of comrades. As a rule, the requital of benefits 
received has precedence over the demands of mere com- 
radeship. Fanciful cases are not excluded from the dis- 
cussion. A has ransomed me from robbers ; must I do 
the same for him, supposing the opportunity presents 
itself, irrespectively of what his character may be ? Or 
if he asks reimbursement for his outlay, must I comply 
without regard to the circumstances ? Ought I not rather 
to use the money to pay my own father's ransom ? Yes, 
says Aristotle, with an ingenuity not altogether above 
suspicion, for I would have preferred my father's liberation 
even to my own. Again, if some one has lent me money, 
it may sometimes be permissible for me to refuse the like 
favour in return. Such a case will arise if the other man 
has lent to me in the full assurance that he will be repaid, 
knowing me to be a man of honour, while I, because of 
his untrustworthiness, cannot hope to see my money 

The next subject is the dissolution of friendship. This 
takes place when the object of the friendship was gain or 
pleasure, and these are no longer yielded by it. But if 
any one has wrongly supposed that he was being loved 
for the sake of himself, the author of the deception deserves 
the severest censure. Deceit of this kind is worse than 
the offence of coining, since the counterfeited object is of 
so much more value than money. But how are we to 
demean ourselves towards a friend who has become bad .'' 
The friendship cannot be maintained ; but it is only when 
the badness is incurable that an immediate breach is 
imperative. If the friend remains capable of amendment, 
then more help should be given to him, for the sake of 
his moral rehabilitation, than would be given to the finan- 
cially unfortunate friend for the sake of restoring his 
position. Now comes a difficulty of a cognate kind : 
suppose that the one party has not become worse, but 


that the other has become very much better. Here, again, 
we have a barrier that will hardly allow the friendship to 
continue ; the ties which it severs are most commonly 
those formed in childhood. Yet we ought so far to be 
affected by the past as to entertain greater good will 
towards our onetime friends than towards mere strangers. 

Passing from the friend, who is a "second self," we 
come now to the first self, and consider a man's communion 
with his own soul. Two types are contrasted. On the 
one hand we have the man who is inwardly at one with 
himself, who knows little if anything of remorse, and who 
therefore willingly lives in memories as well as in anticipa- 
tions. On the other hand, we have the picture of the bad 
man, who has fallen out with himself. Though it is 
impossible to feel pleasure and pain at the same time, yet 
this condition is approached as near as human nature can 
approach it, by the man of divided personality who wills 
one thing and wishes another, who now pursues a pleasure 
and at once repents it. Such persons do not live in 
friendship with themselves ; on the contrary, they flee 
from themselves and seek refuge in distraction and self- 
forgetfulness, even if they do not go to the length of 

6. We now come to certain feelings which, though 
akin to friendship, yet have to be distinguished from it ; 
of this nature are good will or sympathy on the one hand, 
and concord on the other. The first is deficient in intensity ; 
it lacks the ardour and the intimate association which 
characterize friendship. A typical example is the prefer- 
ence which we entertain for one among the participants 
in a contest (of poets, actors, athletes). We wish him the 
victory, but have no thought of helping him towards it. 
(Aristotle knew nothing of the passionate partisanships 
which afterwards centred round the arena.) Sometimes, 
however, sympathy of this kind is a first step towards 
friendship, just as pleasure in the sight of a person is often 
the first step towards love. Concord, again, is something 
higher than mere agreement in opinion, the subject of 
which might be any set of astronomical or mathematical 


propositions. Its field is practice, more especially politics. 
Such community of thought and feeling unites men, while 
egoism separates them by causing each to strive after a 
greater share of advantage, a smaller share of efforts and 
sacrifices. Where this latter temper prevails, each man 
opposes and watches over his neighbour ; indeed, it is 
only by this constant checking of each other on the part 
of its members that such a community is saved from 

We are conducted to much greater depths by a ques- 
tion dealing with the relations of benefactors and benefited. 
Why do the first seem to love the second more than the 
second love the first ? Aristotle begins by stating a 
popular attempt at an explanation : the two parties are 
comparable to creditor and debtor. The creditor has an 
interest in the solvency, and so in the welfare, of his 
debtor ; while the latter would like to see creditor and 
obligation disappear together. But this is looking at life 
too much from the bad side, as Epicharmus would say. A 
much better comparison would be that with artists. An 
artist loves his own work much more than he would be 
loved by it, were it alive. This is especially true of poets. 
They cherish the warmest affection for their creations, love 
them as parents love their children. (" Marian is in the 
next room, crying over the distresses of her young people " 
— so writes Lewes, referring to George Eliot. Dickens says, 
in a letter to a friend : " I am breaking my heart over this 
story, and cannot bear to finish it.") The case is similar 
with benefactors. The ultimate reason is that we all love 
existence ; now, we exist in our activities. " The work in 
a manner is the worker in his full actuality." Then, too, 
we have to consider the ideal element in the benevolent 
act. For the benefactor, this is, so to speak, embodied in 
the recipient ; while the latter often reaps no more than 
a passing advantage. The discussion ends with the 
reflexion that all things laboriously produced are valued 
the more highly on that account. Thus we prize the 
possessions which we have acquired for ourselves more 
than those which we have inherited ; thus mothers love 


their children more than fathers. The same appears to 
hold good of benefactors, 

7. The book ends with the treatment of a number 
of controversial points. Men are sometimes reproached 
with " self-love ; " on the other hand, we are advised to 
love our best friend best ; but who is nearer to me than 
my own self? It is necessary to distinguish self-love in 
the ordinary sense from another and much rarer kind. 
The first is subservient to the desires, the emotions, in 
short, to the irrational element in man ; the second renders 
homage to the ruling element in the soul, — that is, to 
reason ; this homage, moreover, may be termed self-love, 
since in man, as in the State, and any other complex, the 
ruling element may fitly be identified with the whole. The 
practice of this self-love is fraught with the highest bless- 
ings for both community and individual. This thought 
is developed by Aristotle in fervid language bespeaking 
genuine enthusiasm. The man so minded — this is roughly 
what he says — will surrender money and goods and 
honours ; he wnll sacrifice everything for the sake of the 
" beautiful " — that is, the ideal — and this he will prefer 
above all else. He will even leave to his friend the doing 
of great deeds, thinking it nobler to be the cause of his 
friend's achievements than to be himself the achiever. An 
attempt is made to justify this self-sacrifice on quasi- 
hedonistic principles ; " a short but intense joy," to give 
the gist of the argument, " is preferable to a long-enduring 
but placid satisfaction." We, too, might admit that one 
year of consummate happiness is worth more than many 
decades of a half-enjoyed life. But to make considerations 
of this kind a ground for justifying the sacrifice even of 
life itself can hardly seem to us other than artificiality. 
From the hedonistic standpoint there can be no immediate 
justification for self-sacrificing death, though there may 
be for the filling of life with a rich content, for a devotion 
to ideals, which may entail such death as a consequence. 
The judgment of Aristotle here seems to us less sound 
than that of J. S. Mill, who answers the same question in 
these words : " It can be shown that on the whole more 


happiness will exist in the world, if feelings are cultivated 
which wiH make people, in certain cases, regardless of 

It is next asked whether the happy or the unhappy 
person has the greater need of friends. This question 
is at first discussed with the help of considerations which 
arise naturally out of what precedes. The unhappy man 
needs a benefactor; the happy man needs some one on 
whom he may confer benefits. The common opinion, that 
we need friends most in adversity, is explained as due 
to the vulgar utilitarian conception of friendship. As 
against this view reference is made to the social nature 
of man, to the fruitfulness of combined action as contrasted 
with the rapidly wearying efforts of the solitary worker, and 
lastly to the fact that only the possession of good friends 
makes it possible for us to contemplate actions which are 
at once excellent in themselves and connected with us 
through the doers of them. At this point there comes a 
turn of language which in Aristotle not seldom marks the 
transition to the profounder and more decisive arguments 
(" It lies more in the nature of the case that . . ."). Of 
all the purposes which friendship serves, by far the most 
important, so it now appears, is the expansion of a man's 
own self, the extension of the acquired or " secondary ego," 
as Theodor Meynert calls it. The intermediate link is the 
conception, not reached without a certain effort, of self- 
consciousness : " We feel that we feel ; we know that we 
know." This knowledge of our mental states includes 
the consciousness of our own existence, a consciousness 
which is in itself pleasurable, though not to the bad. Feel- 
ing of this kind, as also the pleasure bound up with it, is 
greatly enhanced by fellow-feeling, and so becomes the 
consciousness of a widened existence. 

Should we, then, desire to multiply indefinitely so 
desirable a possession ? Aristotle proves, by arguments 
which He ready to hand, that in the case of friendships 
grounded on utility this is impossible. But is there also 
a limit of this kind for the more ideal type of friendship .'' 
Much in the same sense — so, curiously enough, he continues 


— as there is for the population of a city. " For a city 
cannot consist of ten inhabitants nor yet of a hundred 
thousand." All sorts of reasons are given for this limita- 
tion. It is not possible to share a common life with a 
great number of others and divide one's self, as it were, 
among them all ; my friends, too, must be each other's 
friends, and this is the more difficult the greater their 
number ; further, the more numerous one's friends, the 
oftener is it necessary at one and the same time to rejoice 
with one and mourn with another. Finally, it is suggested 
that high intensity and wide extension of the feeling of 
friendship are incompatible. The friend of everybody is 
rightly regarded as the friend of nobody. Allusion is made 
to pairs of friends celebrated in story and to the exclusive- 
ness of the kindred passion of love. 

We still have to mention a chapter on the relations 
of friends to each other in prosperity and in adversity. 
Our misfortunes are alleviated by the sympathy of our 
friends; is this alleviation to be regarded as the distribution 
of a load among several shoulders 1 Or are the presence 
of friends and our consciousness of their sympathy things 
pleasant in themselves and so calculated to lighten our 
pain ? The question is left undecided. Manly natures 
avoid allowing their friends to participate in their sorrow ; 
women and womanish men take delight in common 
lamentation. Friends are to be called in chiefly when a 
maximum of satisfaction to us is coupled with a minimum 
burden on them. We ought, further, to visit the sorrowing 
even without an invitation, but we should only seldom 
accept the hospitality of the prosperous. Still, in the 
declining of invitations we should carefully avoid anything 
that might give an impression of boorishness. 



aristotle's ethics. 

(The Last Book.) 

I. The last book gathers together with powerful hand the 
threads started in the previous nine. It begins with a 
discursive treatment of pleasure, a subject which Aristotle 
discusses with great thoroughness and many a polemical 
side-glance, and that not only in the present book or even 
in the course on ethics. We give our attention first to the 
results, on which the theory of happiness is based. 

There is a passage of capital importance, in our opinion 
the most valuable in the whole work, which states that 
pleasure is the perfection or crown of activity, in the same 
way as beauty is the crown and flower of youth. The 
thought thus wrapped up may be put more clearly as 
follows. Just as the organism does not strive after beauty, 
but after preservation and development, while beauty 
accompanies the attainment of this aim, so by nature and 
instinct we strive after all normal exercise of our powers, 
after the full development of our capacities, and in so doing 
we harvest the pleasure which accompanies that exercise 
and that development. Aristotle himself supplied in 
advance a commentary on the passage referred to when he 
wrote : " Every perception, as also every exercise of 
thought and contemplation, is accompanied by pleasure. 
The most pleasurable, as well as the most perfect, of all 
these activities is that of which the subject is in a normal 
state, and of which the object is the most excellent of all 
the things included under the category concerned." There 
is here only one thing to give us pause. What is said of 


the production of pleasure clearly has a quite general 
application, and covers all activity or exercise of powers ; 
explicitly, nothing is mentioned but varieties of intellectual 
activity. Now, the author himself lived the contemplative 
life ; he purposed presently to extol contemplation as the 
summit of happiness ; it was thus natural that he should 
employ the speculative activities as the representatives of 
activities in general, or, more accurately speaking, as a 
starting-point from which to pass on to the others. This 
transition is made immediately after the settlement of a 
preliminary question, one of which the justification may be 
read between the lines : ^^Hoiv comes it — since our faculties 
are in constant exercise -that we do not enjoy pleasure 
witkojit ceasing?" For answer, reference is made to two 
fundamental facts of human nature, fatigue and the dulling 
of the soul's faculties by use. As a result of this second 
factor the intensity of the exertion relaxes, and at the 
same time the lustre of the accompanying pleasure becomes 

2. Now the horizon widens. Instead of the merely 
contemplative operations we now have life itself : " All 
strive after pleasure because all desire life, and life is an 
exercise of powers." This exercise differs with different 
individuals according to the objects towards which the 
powers are directed and the instruments which each person 
uses by preference. One question is mentioned only to 
be dropped immediately, the question, namely, as to 
whether we choose pleasure for the sake of life or life for 
the sake of pleasure. Are not the two inseparably 
connected .'' There follows a wearisome discussion of the 
specific differences between pleasurable feelings which 
depend on the specific differences between the activities 
determining them. The object is the severance of valuable 
from reprehensible pleasures- a region of ethics which 
has frequently been the arena of arbitrary dogmatisms. 
Aristotle knows nothing of Plato's untenable distinction 
between "true" and "false" pleasures (cf. Vol. III. 
pp. 190, 191). But he has no scruple in taking the feelings 
of the " excellent " man and raising them to the rank of 


sole valid standard. With an unmistakable allusion to the 
Protagorean dictum touching the " measure of all things," 
he replaces ''man" in general by "virtue and the good 
man." In dealing with the pleasure of the abnormal and 
the corrupt man (such is the tenour of his remarks), we say 
that it is a pleasure solely for him and his like ; but when 
we come to the normal man — who in an earlier section has 
also been described as the man who is at one with himself, 
untroubled by the inner war of the different parts of the 
soul — -we say that his pleasure is pleasure in the absolute 
sense. The philosopher's sense of the relativity of all things 
human is here subjected to some strain, but a measure 
of compensation is afforded by the recognition of a scale 
of pleasures, widely differing in value, which lie in the 
interval between the two extremes of the unconditionally 
praiseworthy and the unconditionally reprehensible. 

Several subtle observations are made in the course of 
this discussion. We may instance what is said on the 
effect of pleasures on the activities which they accompany 
and on what we may call the interference of different 
pleasures with each other. An unpleasant feeling impairs 
the corresponding activity, as, for example, when one who 
is sick of writing writes worse in consequence ; at the same 
time, a pleasure alien to the occupation in hand produces 
a similar inhibitory effect. The lover of the flute can with 
difficulty follow a conversation when he hears flute-playing. 
On the other hand, when the acting is bad in a theatre, 
there is an increase in the consumption by the public of 
the fruit and confectionery offered them by vendors of 
refreshments. An activity is maintained, enhanced, and 
perfected by the pleasure peculiar to itself, impeded by 
the pleasure with which it has no connexion. 

3. Now comes the transition to the closing section, of 
which the subject is tv^aijLtovia or happiness. This position, 
we are told, is the due of that which is the end or goal 
of all human action. By reasoning which is already known 
to the reader (cf. pp. 243 and 272), it is proved afresh that 
happiness is " an activity according to virtue," and not, 
say, a mere " quality." Since tv^m/jovia is not a means 


but an end In itself, occasion arises to introduce the subject 
of play, which likewise serves no end outside itself ; and 
the claim for the first place thus suggested is examined 
with what to us is a surprising fulness. It was not a 
difficult matter to prove that all the toil and labour of life 
is directed towards a serious purpose and not to mere 
sport and entertainment. For the Greeks, the proof was 
made easier by the close bond which their language wove 
between the ideas "boy," "game," "jest" {-rralq, irai^eiv, 
■n-aiSia), and by the thought thus readily suggested that the 
characteristic occupation of boyhood cannot possibly form 
the highest task of maturity. That which invited Aristotle 
to linger over this subject was the circumstance that the 
mode of life to which he awarded the highest prize is, 
equally with play, directed to no external aim, and that 
both, consequently, were often comprehended under the 
common generic notion of " entertainment " in the widest 

The highest prize is awarded to the contemplative life, 
in whose praise and honour a fervid hymn is raised. 
" Wonderful pleasures, wonderful in their purity and their 
permanence, are afforded by philosophy or science." Before 
we enter upon the proofs by which it is sought to establish 
this assertion, we cannot forbear a remark. Judge as we 
may as to the validity of the arguments here adduced, 
they are absolutely cogent in respect of one thing — the 
feelings of the man who devised them. How great a tide 
of happiness must have flooded the soul of one whose life 
was filled with scientific research, and who extolled the 
beatific power of such a life with so much enthusiasm ! 

The demonstration to which we have referred has the 
following form. If the highest end of life, ivdai/novla, is 
an activity according to virtue, the virtue or excellence 
concerned must be the highest of all, it must be an active 
manifestation of the best in us. But this best can only 
be Nous (reason) or whatever else is ordained to bear rule 
and exercise guidance and likewise possess knowledge of 
beautiful and divine things, whether this element be itself 
of divine nature or only that in us which stands nearest 


to the truly divine. This conclusion, we are told, agrees 
with the teaching of predecessors and with the facts. Then, 
too, contemplative activity is the most continuous of all ; 
we can occupy ourselves with it for a longer time without 
fatigue than we can with any other kind of exertion. 
Further, there is another requisite of happiness, self- 
sufficiency (ai;ra/)K£fa), which is in a high degree characteristic 
of the speculative life. Even the cultivation of the practical 
virtues, justice, courage, temperance, always implies the 
presence of persons with reference to which they may be 
exercised. No doubt it is also profitable to the pursuer 
of wisdom not to lack fellow-workers, still he does not 
absolutely need them. Another argument starts from 
the antithesis of leisure and " occupations." All of these 
latter, including the occupations of politics and war which 
are distinguished by their importance and honourableness, 
serve as means to other ends. No one chooses war for 
the sake of war. We fight that we may have peace ; we 
sacrifice leisure in order to gain leisure. But when we look 
for something which is an end in itself, for the manner of 
enjoying complete leisure, we come to the contemplative 
life, the excellence of which is further attested by the fact 
of its not producing any result outside itself. Thus con- 
templation, provided only that it fills a human life of full 
span, contains perfected well-being. Such a life is super- 
human. But we ought not to listen to the poets who warn 
us to respect the barriers set to the sons of earth and to 
content ourselves with what is on a level with man. We 
should rather desire to share, so far as is by any means 
possible, in the immortal life of the gods. 

4. To criticize an outburst of fervour like this is a 
somewhat thankless undertaking. A thoughtful reader 
hardly needs to be told that some limitations are necessary 
here ; that the argument from self-sufiiciency is not wholly 
free from artificiality, since the means of research cannot 
without exaggeration be represented as dispensable, while 
there is violence in the separation of the man in the 
researcher from the researcher as such ; that the argument 
from leisure bears a suspicious resemblance to a circuhis in 

A PARABLJ'. 301 

probanda, since it overlooks the fact that a born statesman 
or general, a Pitt or a Napoleon, does not by any means 
prefer political conflict or the clash of battle merely as a 
means to other ends. It is more important to point out 
that the lack of the necessary limitations exposes Aris- 
totle's teaching to a criticism that overshoots the mark, 
and impedes its just appreciation. It is so very easy to 
say : The Stagirite was born to be a thinker and investi- 
gator above anything else ; what else should he do but 
generalize his individual preference, elevate his personal 
ideal to the rank of an ideal for all humanity .'' 

We may be permitted to answer with a parable. Let 
us suppose that by the seashore there stands a lonely 
house, which the numerous inmates are not permitted to 
leave during life. The majority of them devote themselves 
to routine occupations in the subdued light of the rooms. 
Some see to the housekeeping, others compose the frequent 
quarrels that arise within the house, others prepare to 
defend it against attack from without. There are just a 
few who renounce all but their indispensable share in the 
produce of the common labour. That part of their time 
v/hich is not taken up with their duties to the community 
they prefer to spend chiefly sitting in a bay-window from 
which there is an endless prospect. Here they delight 
themselves with the rich variety of pictures offered them 
by the changeful clouds, the star-spangled firmament, the 
face of the sea now bright and calm, now lashed with the 
storm. They are alone in their preference. Among 
the others, one has too weak sight to bear the full brilliance 
of the sun, another has too sensitive an ear to bear the 
roaring of the breakers. Such defects in their perceptive 
faculties, perhaps also the greater strength of muscles that 
permit and demand severe exertion, lastly, the higher 
measure of their physical needs, subject them to the yoke 
of everyday work. It would certainly be an error to main- 
tain that this, by far the largest, class would do well to 
set the contemplation of nature's wonders above the pursuit 
of their useful occupations. But who will deny that the 
better lot has fallen, that the fuller and richer existence 


has been vouchsafed, to those who from their narrow and 
stifling bounds reach out towards the immeasurable dis- 
tances, who greedily treasure all the stupendous impressions 
which come to them from the universal life ? Even such 
a contrast is to be observed within the frail and ephemeral 
race, animal by nature though at the head of the animal 
series, which peoples our tiny planet. On the one hand, 
the great mass ; on the other, that fraction which has 
chosen for its life's aim the vision of the " never-ageing 
order" of the infinite universe and of the forces which 
pervade and govern it. 

5. Less elevated strains are employed in the praise of 
that contribution to well-being which is supplied by the 
exercise of the practical virtues. These have their root in 
the " composite " nature of man, who is a being com- 
pounded of spirit and body. There is a significant 
reference to the close intertwining of the intellectual with 
the ethical. From the intellect ethics borrows the notion 
of rightness or correctness ; the ethical virtues, on the 
other hand, are the foundation of practical reason. (We 
may remark that the stronger this conviction was, the less 
could it meet with the Stagirite's approval to separate 
two so closely allied themes by a section as long as that 
which deals with friendship ; cf. p. 286.) Aristotle now 
returns to the work of justifying the preference which 
he has accorded to the speculative life. He insists with 
increasing emphasis on its independence of external factors. 
For instance, he had previously said of the just man 
simply that he needs persons with whom he may deal 
justly ; he now speaks also of goods, by means of which 
the just man may make restitutions, and so forth. The 
same holds good of the liberal man. Similarly, too, the 
brave man needs material instruments of prowess ; and 
the temperate man must not lack the possibility of excess, 
for otherwise — so we have to add in thought — his temper- 
ance would be enforced. Debate as one may whether the 
purpose or the execution is the more important in the 
practice of virtue, the perfection of virtue cannot be attained 
without both ; the acts, however, require many external 


aids, and the greater and nobler acts need them in ampler 
abundance. But he who is devoted to contemplation 
needs nothing of the kind ; indeed it may be said that 
such aids can only distract him. It must be admitted 
that in so far as he is a man living among men he will 
exercise the practical virtues as well, and that to this ex- 
tent he will not be able to dispense with materials outside 

The last and highest trump is now played out. It is 
an argument which, starting from the absolute inactivity of 
God or of the gods (cf. p. 211), and from the supreme 
blessedness denied them by none, infers that their happi- 
ness, and therefore also whatever approach to it can be 
made by man, must consist solely in contemplation. We 
note that the reason is easily discernible why Aristotle 
speaks now of his one Deity, and again of the plurality of 
gods recognized by the popular faith. He cannot prove 
the blessedness of his Supreme Being ; instead, he sets 
out from the universally accepted belief (" We all assume," 
etc.), and then he quietly substitutes the one God of the 
philosopher for the many " blessed gods " of popular 

6. The concluding remarks of the " Ethics " prepare the 
transition to the " Politics," and also contain a reference 
to the great preliminary study for this latter work, the 
" Polities," the most important section of which was not 
many years ago recovered for us (cf. pp. 28 and 33, 34). This 
allusion appears in the form of a polemic against Aristotle's 
old opponent Isocrates (cf. pp. 20 and 24). In one of his 
speeches the latter had casually expressed the thought 
that the legal reformer need not necessarily produce any- 
thing new, that it rather behoves him to collect the 
numerous existing laws and choose out of them those 
which have proved best, " a task which any one who likes 
can perform easily." To this Aristotle replies with words 
of bitter censure. His critical sense is sharpened by pro- 
found antipathy, perhaps, too, by the consciousness of 
having solved, at a great expense of laborious investiga- 
tion, the alleged easy problem of " collecting constitutions 


and laws." His most decided contradiction is called forth 
by the eclectic procedure which Isocrates seems to have 
recommended. For everything depends (as he points out 
both here and in several other passages with much 
emphasis) on the agreement of a country's laws with each 
other and with the given conditions — as we should say — 
with the state of contemporary society. 

The way to the " Politics " is opened up by the reflexion 
that the great majority are restrained from evil far more 
by fear of punishment than by a sense of shame. It is 
therefore pre-eminently necessary that not only education, 
which, as it were, prepares the soil for the seed, but also 
the " conduct of life " itself should be regulated by law, 
which alone has " compelling power." In this connexion 
reference is made to the pattern state, Sparta. A con- 
trast is then drawn, with an obvious reference to Plato's 
" Statesman," between regulations which level all and 
individual treatment (cf. Vol. III. p. 183). But, whichever 
of the two we prefer, the active politician will always need 
general principles, which yet will indispensably need to be 
supplemented by empirical routine. The polemic against 
Isocrates, which we have already mentioned, was intended 
to prove the insufficiency of the treatment of this matter 
by sophists and rhetoricians. The course on ethics closes 
with an announcement of the main content of the " Politics " 
as the proposed completion of the " science of human 
things " and as the immediate continuation of the present 

But before we step through the open door, we have 
still to return to a main and fundamental doctrine of the 
" Ethics," which is now to be surveyed as a whole and 
supplemented by Aristotle's teaching on the subject as 
found in his other writings. 



aristotle's ethics. 

(Conclusion : The Doctrine of Pleasure.) 

I. Self-preservation and self-development are objects 
which are striven after by the human organism as by all 
others. Man strives further after the unfolding and the 
exercise of the faculties innate in the human soul. With 
every phase of this self-realization sensations of pleasure 
go hand in hand. These sensations, accordingly, are not 
primarily the goal of our strivings, but phenomena accom- 
panying their success. 

It is true that, once tasted, pleasure becomes in addition 
an immediate object of desire. As such it needs our 
unceasing and vigilant supervision. Not only are these 
secondary aims, when pursued for their own sakes, liable 
to interfere most injuriously with the primary aims (con- 
sider the dangers of incontinence or gluttony), but even 
the primary aims themselves, directed towards the realiza- 
tion of our faculties, need constant regard to the conditions 
of life (consider the dangers of foolhardiness) as well as 
mutual limitation. Without such regard and without such 
limitation the exertion of powers leads to a harmful 
excess. At the other extreme stands inadequacy of 
development, lagging behind the standard ordained by 
Nature. Here lies the root of the theory of the mean. 
Moreover, self-realization meets with many impediments 
and interruptions due to the action of external factors, and 
the overcoming and removal of these is again a main 
source of pleasure, which to this extent may be termed a 
phenomenon accompanying a return to the normal condition, 



But the obstacles and disturbing influences which beset 
the struggle towards full and many-sided development are 
not all of external origin or caused by the disproportionate 
strengthening of particular elements in our composite 
nature. Even the merely temporary predominance of 
particular powers is felt as painful by the others which 
for the moment suffer repression. Such a predominance 
of one part is " something in a manner unnatural for the 
remainder of our nature." On this rests the necessity of 
change, which is counterbalanced by the desire for the 
repetition of the accustomed. 

These are the main lines of Aristotle's doctrine of 
pleasure, gathered together from scattered utterances, with 
here and there a missing link supplied. His attitude 
towards both the true Hedonists and the despisers of 
pleasure is at once obvious. But since his treatment of 
the subject includes a certain amount of polemical writing 
which is not without independent value, a few points must 
be specially considered. 

Aristotle allows some excuse to those who describe 
pleasure as an unqualified evil, and thus appear to be 
guilty of a palpable absurdity. These philosophers, 
Speusippus and the Cynics, probably do not go so far 
in their own minds ; in view, however, of the excessively 
pleasure-loving tendency of the majority, they feel them- 
selves called to champion the opposite extreme, trusting in 
this manner to lead the world back to the commendable 
medium. " But just here lies their error." In these 
questions men look rather to deeds than to words. If the 
two are found flatly contradicting each other, the theory, 
including the element of truth contained in it, becomes 
discredited, and its advocates fall into contempt. He who 
denounces pleasure, and yet on occasion is seen to pursue 
it, creates an impression that he is wholly devoted to it. 
" Fine distinctions are outside the province of the great 

The philosophers who pronounced pleasure an evil had 
been answered by some with the following argument. The 
opposite of pleasure, that is, pain or suffering, which all 


desire to escape, is manifestly an evil ; this alone proves 
that pleasure is a good. Aristotle does not think this 
demonstration quite convincing. In his view there is 
nothing intrinsically impossible in the supposition that both 
the extremes are evils, and that the corresponding good — 
the thought is natural enough to the author of the theory 
of the mean — is the neutral state lying between the two 
extremes. This, he says, would not be logically impossible, 
but it is false to the facts. 

2. Leaving the despisers of pleasure, and passing on to 
the Hedonists at the other end of the scale, we note once 
more that Aristotle does not name, as the representative of 
this school, a man like Aristippus, whom he despised as a 
"sophist" (cf. Vol. I. p. 421). He prefers to direct his 
polemic against Eudoxus of Cnidos, a personal friend of 
his, who was celebrated for the strictness of his morals as 
well as for his work in astronomy. This choice of an 
antagonist alone indicates that Aristotle was far from 
adopting the attitude of uncompromising hostility to 
hedonism which was assumed, for example, by Plato in 
the " Philebus." The opinion which we thus form in 
advance is corroborated by the sentence in which Aristotle 
summarizes his investigation : " Pleasure is not identical 
with the good, and not every pleasure is to be chosen : 
some kinds of pleasure, however, deserve to be chosen 
merely for themselves ; they differ from those which do 
not deserve such choice partly in their nature, partly in 
their origin." 

The two philosophers approach the subject from a 
common starting-point. This is not to be found in postu- 
lates or imperatives of any kind, but in facts — facts of 
human nature, or rather of the whole animal creation. 
The thesis of Eudoxus, together with the proof on which 
he based it, is recorded for us in what are probably the 
original words : " All beings, rational as well as irrational, 
strive after pleasure ; and their moving in that direction 
makes it plain that pleasure is the best thing for them. P'or 
every creature is able to find what is best for it, just as it 
knows how to choose its own food. But that which is g^ood 


for all, and after which all strive, is the universal good." 
He contends, further, that the most desirable thing of all 
is that which is pursued or craved without reference to a 
reason or purpose outside itself. But this is the case, as 
all allow, with pleasure. No one who is enjoying him- 
self asks to what end he does so, since every one takes 
for granted that pleasure or enjoyment is intrinsically 

Now, nothing can be more noteworthy than the fact 
that in entering upon the discussion of this teaching 
Aristotle ranges himself absolutely on the side of the 
Hedonist Eudoxus. " It is absurd," he exclaims with 
unusual emphasis, " to object that what all strive after is 
not therefore necessarily good. Of that which appears to 
all to be true we have a right to say that it is true. Those 
who would rob us of this guarantee for our opinions will 
hardly put a better in its place." But — so many a reader 
will, perhaps, ask with surprise — does not Aristotle here 
speak like a Protagorean, like a defender of the dictum : 
" Man is the measure of all things " .? Certainly he does, 
and that not in the present passage alone, where he might 
have been influenced by a wish to defend a doctrine which 
he respected, though he did not accept it, against invalid 
objections. He does so, likewise, at the beginning of his 
treatise on ethics, when he is laying the foundations of 
the subject. He there adopts as his own a definition 
already given by others, probably by Eudoxus himself : 
" The good is that after which all beings strive." We 
think this " subjectivism " well justified and greatly to 
A ristotle's credit. Nothing could have been further from 
him than the folly of identifying the opinions or inferences 
of the great majority with objective truth. (Such a 
misinterpretation, by the way, is less readily suggested by 
the Greek original than by the word " seems," which we 
liave used in translating it.) The saying does not relate 
to derived or secondary knowledge and volition, but to 
that which is original and primary in both the knowledge 
and the endeavours of man ; the same is true of the under- 
lying principle, namely, that in the phenomena concerned 


we have an ultimate source of knowledge and an ultimate 
basis for all codes regulating the conduct of life. 

3. The point at which the paths of the Stagirite and 
the Cnidian part is not now unknown to the reader. In 
the opinion of the former human instincts and impulses 
are primarily directed, not towards pleasure, but towards 
the fulfilment of Nature's purposes — a fulfilment which 
pleasure accompanies as a subsidiary result. Our philo- 
sopher, however, gives full recognition to the close bond 
which couples original instinctive action with pleasure ; and 
he makes abundant use of it when he sets about framing 
regulations for the conduct of life. But — it may be asked 
— does not this bond snap at the point where individual, 
self-regarding morality makes way for social morality ^ 
On what foundation, then, does Aristotle rest that social 
virtue, or justice, which he prizes so highly, seeing that it 
seems to have so little to do either with Nature's aims and 
natural instincts or with the considerations suggested by 
the parallelism between pleasurable feelings and instinc- 
tive actions ? 

Aristotle might, indeed, quite conceivably have re- 
nounced every attempt to build a bridge between the 
demands embodied in justice and the self-interest of the 
individual. On the one side, society with its needs and 
the claims which spring from them ; on the other, the 
individual, whom praise and blame, reward and punish- 
ment press into the service of those needs, and render 
subject to the resulting canons. But that such was not 
in reality the Stagirite's attitude towards these problems 
is plain from more than one disclosure of his sentiments. 
For how, in the case supposed, could he have recognized 
a natural law in addition to positive or statutory } Still 
less could he have written that fervid eulogy of justice, 
now so well known to us, in which he describes it as 
perfected virtue, endowed with wondrous beauty (cf. p. 27), 
Nor could he have identified justice with the whole of virtue 
(cf. p. 258), if in the philosopher's mind an impassable gulf 
had yawned between those virtues which are enforced, as it 
were, upon the individual from without and those which 


constitute his own personal happiness. This, however, is far 
from being the case. On first thoughts, one might be in- 
clined to see a natural basis of social virtue in that which 
was said to be a product and an aim of friendship — the 
expansion of the individual self, the enhancement of the 
joy of existence by sympathy with others, and the share 
so gained in their life (cf. p. 294). The same result which 
" friendship " in the true sense brings about, with higher 
intensity but narrower extension, must also follow the 
cultivation of social sentiment in general, but this time 
with a wider extension and a corresponding total effect. 
The thought can hardly have been wholly absent from 
Aristotle's mind. But he does not dwell on it any more 
than he does on the possibility which we have had occasion 
to refer to (Vol. III. p. 131) of an artificial "rooting-up of 
the social feelings." His mind was at home in concrete 
reality, and he never employed it upon such academic 
questions as these. Man was for him first and foremost 
a being designed for " life in common," a " social being." 
The family, the municipality, the state — these are the 
enchanted circles within which he sees every individual 
constrained to move ; membership of such groupings is 
for him a fundamental law of human nature, which can 
evade these bonds only at the price, not merely of out- 
ward decay, but also of inner maiming. Thus he found 
the natural basis of social feelings and social morality 
in the social character of man, which he regarded as a 
fundamental fact, needing no further justification, open 
to no cavilling doubt. But the relation of man to the 
different stages and forms of the social tie is explained 
and described in the lecture-course on " Politics," to the 
consideration of which we now turn. 



aristotle's theory of the state. 

(The Preliminary Study, the Structure of the 
Work, and the Introduction to it.) 

I. We have just learnt to know man as a member of 
society ; immediately afterwards he becomes the centre 
of the doctrine of the state. The Greek language does 
not distinguish the two ideas, and the linguistic defect 
is one of considerable importance historically. We write 
sometimes " state," sometimes " society," as translations 
of one and the same word, TroXtc, with its congeners, which 
at bottom means neither the one nor the other. So em- 
phatically, for the Hellene, was the " city " the type of all 
social as well as political combination. Aristotle even 
uses the word " political " to describe the family life of 
animals and their co-operation for common ends, no matter 
(as he explicitly adds) whether the animal community 
lives, like the bees, under the rule of a single head, or 
whether, like the ants, they have no such head, and thus 
present in its weakest form the analogy with human 
political life. 

The fact that the Greek knew the state only in the 
form of " city-state " exercised a lasting influence on the 
growth of his civilization, and was also responsible for 
the early destruction of Hellenic independence. But when 
we say that a boundary between state and society hardly 
existed, that the state, in fact, set itself in the place of 
society, that is only another way of expressing the fact that 
the provinces of law and morals, of the compulsory and 
the voluntary, were anything but strictly separated. This, 


again, appears clearly from the use of one word for two 
ideas. The Greeks gave the name of vofxoQ to customs, 
even the most indifferent and the most void of sanction, 
such as a particular mode of wearing the hair or beard ; 
they gave the same name to the most severely enforced 
/aws, such as that which forbade murder under the penalty 
of death. Least of all was such a distinction to be found 
in the ideals of a Plato or an Aristotle. Sparta, with its 
Lycurgean discipline, served them as a pattern state, as 
the most serious attempt yet made to realize approximately 
their ideal of universal regulation. Not to go back so 
far as to Plato's " Republic," we have only just learnt 
that Aristotle desired the whole " conduct of life," and 
not education alone, to be directed and controlled by 
the state. Wholly foreign to him is the thought that 
individual freedom, including freedom to err, can be among 
the number of desirable things ; that not only is the power 
of the state always wielded by fallible hands, but that, 
apart from this, spontaneity of action and the diversity 
of characters and situations bound up with it, are in them- 
selves of incalculable value. The vision of these truths 
was reserved for the Athenian Demos, its leader Pericles, 
and the philosopher among historians, Thucydides (cf. 
Vol. II. pp. 38-42). 

2. Aristotle did not set about creating a theory of the 
state without elaborate {preparations. Perhaps it would be 
more correct to say that his deep interest in history and 
politics kept him continually busy in collecting, comparing, 
and digesting the facts bearing on the subject, and that a 
part of these labours was turned to account in the " Lectures 
on Politics " (cf. pp. 33, 34). This does not apply to his chro- 
nological researches, which related to the history of the holy 
places and of the national games ; still less does it apply to 
his historico-geographical study on disputed territory ("The 
Territorial Claims of States ") ; but it is eminently applic- 
able to the great compilation entitled " Polities," of which 
we may note that an appendix on barbarian states brought 
Rome and Carthage into the field of study. The structure 
of this work, as appears from its most important section, 

THE ''POLITIES,'' ■ 313 

which was not long ago rediscovered (cf. p. 28), was 
actually the same as we moderns employ in writings of 
similar character. It is customary to distinguish an his- 
torical portion from one which is statistical and antiquarian : 
the first deals with the growth of institutions, the second with 
the full-grown product. In the same way the "Polity" of 
the Athenians falls into two sharply divided sections. The 
first of them expounds the constitutional history of Athens, 
with easy-going diffuseness and no anxious endeavour to 
remain within the bounds of essential matters. The second 
main division describes existing political institutions, in- 
cluding details of the functions of administrative and 
judicial authorities. Some of the lost popular works were 
also among the fruit borne by all these historical and poli- 
tical studies, and by the speculation which they fostered. In 
particular, we may name a portion of the long dialogue 
" On Justice ; " another dialogue entitled " The Statesman," 
and giving the model of one ; a treatise " On Monarchy," 
in the form of a letter addressed to Alexander ; and a 
dialogue, perhaps similar in character, with the title "Alex- 
ander, or on Colonies." Less importance attaches to the 
few pages which make up the first book of the " Economics," 
matter of which the genuineness has been doubted, as far 
as I can see, without decisive reasons. 

3. The structure of the " Politics " presents some pecu- 
liarities. The traditional arrangement of the books is not 
entirely in unison with the anticipations and the backward 
references which they contain. The following is the hypo- 
thesis on which we think the anomaly may best be ex- 
plained. Aristotle repeated the course on politics, and did 
not in every case deliver the lectures in the same order as 
before — a change which has left traces in the gradually 
compiled notes. 

The " Politics " falls into three main parts. The first 
comprises books i.-iii. ; the second, books iv,-vi. ; the third 
and last, the two remaining books. This division is 
plainly indicated by the work itself, and is borne out by 
the hints of the author. At the beginning of the fourth 
book he refers to the first group of books (spoken of as the 


" first investigation "), and again at the beginning of the 
seventh book he mentions the " first sections." 

The first book is of the nature of an introduction. In 
treating of the elements of the state, it enters on a dis- 
cussion of slavery, the completion of which is to be found 
in many other passages both of this work and of the main 
work on ethics. A treatment of economic theory is also 
naturally included in these fundamental chapters. Some 
surprise is produced by the announcement, made at the 
end of the book, of the subject to which the second book is 
to be principally devoted. The author proposes to speak 
of those " who have given their opinions on the best state." 
And in point of fact, Plato's ideal state provides the first 
material for exposition and criticism. After it come the 
projects of less eminent theoretical legislators, and then the 
political systems regarded by philosophers as models, 
namely, those of Sparta and Crete, while that of Carthage 
is added as a supplement. It is not easy to say what led 
the author to adopt this order. The question is compli- 
cated with another and much more difficult one. The 
third book begins with a kind of postscript to the intro- 
duction, dealing with the fundamental ideas of the whole 
subject ; it goes on to describe the main forms of constitu- 
tion, normal as well as degenerate, and treats exhaustively 
of monarchy, which, in a certain sense, ranks highest 
among them. The reader is thus led to expect the 
remaining forms to be presently passed in review, and 
this expectation is actually satisfied in the fourth book. 
But the lecture-course did not always exhibit this natural 
and reasonable arrangement. The continuation promised 
at the end of the third book is not what we have indicated, 
but a description of the "best state" — that is, of Aristotle's 
ideal. And again, soon after the beginning of the fourth 
book, the reader is referred for a description of aristocracy 
— the second best of constitutions — to an earlier section, 
where it is not to be found. There was thus a time when 
the lecture-course was arranged very differently, and, we 
may add, in a much less satisfactory order. It seems 
legitimate to assume that the lecturer originally developed 



his ideal of the State merely in a sketch of slight extent. 
Now, however, the exposition of that ideal, which still 
lacks completion, and indeed is not carried further than 
the education question, occupies the whole of the last two 
books, almost a quarter of the entire work, Here we have 
what must have been for Aristotle a sufficient reason for 
removing this exposition to a later position than that first 
intended for it ; while the editors of the lectures omitted 
to expunge those forward and backward references which 
had now become misleading. 

But what can have been Aristotle's purpose when he 
originally chose so early a stage of the lecture-course in 
which to treat both his own ideals of State and society 
and, consequentially perhaps, the ideals of other authors 
and the pattern constitutions approximating to them ? We 
cannot answer this question with certainty. Perhaps here, 
too, he showed himself his master's pupil. Plato, as the 
reader will remember (cf. Vol. III. pp. 90, 91), was at 
times inclined to bring the "order in rank" and the "order 
in time " of constitutions into a somewhat fantastic con- 
nexion, to represent political systems of less than the 
highest excellence as being invariably degenerate lapses 
from original perfection, and for the purposes of such 
representations, tacitly to replace his own ideal state, which 
had nowhere been realized, " first by patriarchal monarchy, 
then by the corresponding type of aristocracy." Might not 
Aristotle also at one time have been guided by similar 
thoughts .'' For in this field, as in others, he was a Platonist 
before the Asclepiad in him gained the victory. In this 
second character, that of empiricist, he put diagnosis before 
treatment : he began by reviewing the imperfect constitu- 
tions presented by history, criticized their defects, and left 
till last of all his own suggestions for improving and 
perfecting them. 

Books iv.-vi. are bound together in the closest union. 
The survey of different forms of constitution in the first of 
these books does not stop at the main types, but extends 
to manifold sub-species and varieties. It ends with a com- 
parative account of the powers of the State, and the forms 


which they assume under different constitutions. The fifth 
book contains what may be called political dynamics, in 
contrast with the statical mode of treatment which prevails 
elsewhere. How constitutions change ; how they fall into 
decay and become ripe for destruction ; how, on the other 
hand, they may be saved from catastrophes and maintained 
in existence ; — such are the questions treated in this book 
and its continuation, the sixth. (This last book returns to 
a point of view developed in the fourth book, that of the 
manifold differentiation of the main constitutional forms. 
Occasion has hence been taken to propose the transposition 
of books V. and vi. But not only is there an absence of 
valid reason for such a step ; it cannot be taken without 
the most violent interference with the traditional text.) 
Nowhere in the " Politics " is the author so much of a 
relativist as in these two books. With an impartial objec- 
tivity that reminds us of the author of the " Prince," he 
studies the nature of the various political systems, and 
searches out the means by which each of them may be 
provided with inner coherence, and protected against the 
dangers that threaten it. Even the " tyrant," though re- 
garded with manifest aversion, receives his share of good 
advice, and of recommendations profitable for the main- 
tenance of his autocratic power. 

The spirit that breathes in these expositions permits us 
to judge how difficult it must have been for the Stagirite 
to set forth his own ideal of the State. We are tempted to 
say that the contents of book vi. explain why the section 
consisting of books vii. and viii. remained imperfect. 
The excellences and the defects of Aristotle's mind here 
worked in unison. He was too rich in adaptability, too 
poor in original fancy, to shine as a star of the first magni- 
tude among the creators of new ideals. 

4. The work begins with a polemic against Plato. The 
latter had given prominence (in the " Statesman ") to the 
common element in the ideas of the king, the statesman, 
the master, the father. Aristotle, in reply, emphasizes the 
specific differences between the groupings concerned. Here, 
as elsewhere, clearness is sought from analysis, from the 


" breaking-up of the compound into its simplest constitu- 
ents." The primary element of the State is found in the 
married couple, united by the instinct of reproduction. To 
this is added a second antithesis, that of master and servant, 
which coincides with the first only among barbarians, with 
whom the element fitted for command is wanting (cf. pp. 
153. 284, and 288). From these two combinations the family 
springs ; from the family, the village ; from the fusion of 
several villages, the city or State. With this last the goal 
of complete self-sufficiency is reached. It comes into being 
for the sake of life, but maintains its existence as a means 
towards " well-living." This form of community is a pro. 
duct of Nature. The man who belongs to no State is either 
a bad man or more than a man. Man is a " political 
creature," in a higher sense than bees or other society- 
forming animals. For Nature, which does nothing in vain, 
has given to man, above and beyond a voice expressive of 
pleasure and pain, language which enables him to distin- 
guish between the useful and the hurtful, and between 
right and wrong. Interwoven with this exposition is an 
excursus on the world of gods, who have been fashioned 
in the image of man, and on primitive times. Nothing 
could be more intelligible than that monarchy is the oldest 
form of government. For it was the mode of rule which 
men brought with them from the patriarchally governed 
family — in support of which view reference is made to the 
Homeric description of the Cyclops " ruling wife and 

This genetic mode of treatment is supplemented by 
its antithesis, which operates with concepts. Though the 
State is later in point of time, yet " it exists by nature 
before" the family and the individual, just as in general 
the same may be said of the whole in relation to each of 
its parts. The paradoxical saying is soon provided with 
an explanation. If a hand be deprived of its peculiar 
functions by separation from the body, it is only in name, 
not in its true being, that it remains what it was. The 
dead hand is no more a hand than is a hand carved out 
of stone (cf. p. i/Cj. Just as man in the State reaches the 


highest perfections, so, when severed from justice and law, 
he is the worst of creatures. Is not well-equipped injustice 
the most dangerous of all ? 

5. Aristotle does not, like Plato, derive the origin of 
the State from the economic need of the individual 
(cf. Vol. III. p. 64). But he is soon obliged to fix his 
attention on the subjects of industry and finance. He 
begins by enumerating the different modes of life, starting 
from the distinctions observable in the animal kingdom 
(herbivora, carnivora, and their subdivisions). The list 
includes huntsmen in the widest sense of the word 
(including fishers, fowlers, and — slave-hunters), then come 
tillers of the soil and nomadic shepherds who "pursue a 
sort of living agriculture." Mention, too, is made of mixed 
modes of life ; but we notice the absence of any reference 
to industry in this connexion. The object of financial 
knowledge is stated to be trade, for which there is no 
room in the first stage of the community, the self-sufficing 
" house," while in the more developed forms division of 
property appears, and with it the need for the reciprocal 
" completion " of individuals by each other. A fully satis- 
factory account is given of the advance from barter to 
the discovery and use of money. But although the 
indispensability of money as an intermediary is clearly 
discerned, the class of men by whose agency it works is 
treated from the first with ethical disfavour. Contemptuous 
words, similar in nature to our "huckstering," serve to 
designate trade, both on the large and on the small scale. 
There follows what might be called a condemnation of 
mercantilism. Some, it is said, hold riches to be a " store 
of gold " ; others, whose view receives manifest preference, 
teach that gold is "empty trash," and that its value is 
arbitrary, seeing that it is affected by every change in the 
monetary standard : while it is even possible for a man to 
have gold in excess and at the same time, like Midas in 
the story, to lack the most absolute necessaries. 

Another reason for the unbridled race after money is 
found in the fact that man is more concerned about life 
than about well-living, and is even prone to identify the 


latter with abundance of bodily pleasures. Thus it has 
come about that every human faculty is employed upon 
an unnatural purpose — the gaining of money. Reference 
is made to the art of war, at that time much practised 
by condottieri, and to medicine. The first of these aims 
at victory, the second is devoted to the restoration of 
health ; yet both are pressed into the service of mere 
profit-making. A current of thought is here observable 
which has since been revived in Emil Steinbach's attempt 
to separate professional remuneration from the hunt after 
wealth. When Aristotle goes on to speak of the financial 
side of business science as " rightly held in evil repute," 
because the gain thereby promoted is " not of natural 
growth," we are reminded of modern socialists and their 
onslaught on the parasitic middleman. It remains, cer- 
tainly, somewhat hard to understand why direct exchange 
is justified by the economic need for complementary 
services : while the business of intermediate trading, which 
fulfils the same purpose in the interests of persons at a 
distance from each other, is, together with its ancillary 
financial transactions, described as " hated for the best of 
reasons." Here, too, we find a condemnation of interest, 
based on an astonishing argument (since wittily ridiculed 
by Bentham), which is drawn from the Greek word denoting 
the idea. This word primarily signifies " offspring." As 
animals produce young, so lent capital produces its interest. 
This mode of employing money is accordingly censured 
as unnatural, because it " makes the currency itself into 
a means of gain, perverting it from its true purpose," and 
because " interest is coin begotten of coin," which in reality 
is sterile. The analyzer, who elsewhere displays such keen- 
ness of perception, here overlooks the fact that, though 
money usually supplies the garb in which a loan-transaction 
is clothed, it by no means constitutes the essence of it. 
For what is in the main quite the same transaction may 
be concluded where as yet the natural system has not been 
displaced by the use of money. Thus a well-to-do farmer 
may lend seed-corn or implements of husbandry to his 
distressed neighbour, and for the temporary deprivation 


of these means of production he may claim compensation, 
consisting in a share of the produce obtained by their use. 

If these arguments have little convincing force, they 
reveal to us all the more clearly the deep-rooted aversion 
which Aristotle felt for the immoderate pursuit of gain. 
Friend as he was of the old Greek order of life, which was 
based on the preponderance of landed property, he justly 
saw an influence hostile to those ideals in the growing 
importance of movable capital. Nor was the reproach of 
unnaturalness wholly without foundation. It did not, 
indeed, apply to the intermediate agency of the trader, or 
to the receipt of dues for loans, but to that insatiable greed 
of gain which loses sight of all relation between the accu- 
mulation of money and the satisfaction of human needs. 

6. After these exhibitions of emotion, the passionless 
classifier has another turn. He begins by dividing practical 
finance into its sub-species. These are the theories (i) of 
cattle-breeding, (2) of tillage, (3) of bee-keeping and of 
the management of other useful animals. Reference is 
here made to special treatises, such as then existed on 
agriculture, on the culture of the olive and the vine, and so 
on (cf. Vol. I. p. 386). The finance which deals with ex- 
change comprises (i) trade in its three branches : com- 
merce by land and by sea and retail selling ; (2) the 
money-lending business ; (3) wage-earning, which is again 
subdivided by the aid of the distinction between skilled 
and unskilled labour. A middle position between 
" natural " finance and that which relates to exchange is 
assigned to the theory of those products of the soil which 
are not consumed like the fruits of the field, but are put to 
use in other ways: wood-cutting and all branches of mining 
come under this head. The exposition of the subject con- 
cludes with the mention of clever financial tricks, such as 
the oil-monopoly which Thales once obtained in Ionia 
(cf. Vol. I. p. 47), and a monopoly of iron which a wide- 
awake merchant once procured for himself in Sicily. 

Leaving the details of material gain, which he calls 
" wearisome," Aristotle returns with a good will to the 
ethico-political part, as it may be termed, of domestic 


economy. He considers the position of the father, the 
husband, and the master. Paternal power is justified by a 
reference to " the greater age and the greater maturity " of 
the parent. This rule is spoken of as " monarchical," but 
the predominance of the husband is expressed by words 
which remind us of the position, now of a " constitutional " 
superior official, now of a " protector." Nor are the excep- 
tions to this general rule forgotten ; the abnormal pheno- 
mena of the virago on the one hand, and the womanish 
man on the other, come under consideration. The Socratic 
belief in the complete equality of man and woman, and 
therefore of the moral demands to be made on both, is 
held by Aristotle for an illusion which dissolves the 
moment we leave the domain of vague generalities and fix 
our gaze on particulars. A woman, for example, would be 
thought bold if her modesty went no further than that of a 
reputable man ; a man would be esteemed a coward if his 
courage were no greater than that of a brave woman. In 
opposition to Plato's gibe about the " swarm of virtues " (cf. 
Vol. II. p. 367), full justification is allowed to the attempt 
of Gorgias the sophist to assign special virtues to men, 
women, children, and so on. But the question of the 
slave's virtue, and of his master's general relations to him, 
leads us to the great problem of slavery, the treatment of 
which claims a separate section. 




aristotle's theory of the state. 

(The Question of Slavery, Greeks and Bar- 


I. We have already seen that in enumerating the chief 
occupations of men Aristotle mentions slave-raiding, or 
man-hunting, among the varieties of the chase (cf. also 
Vol. II. p. 205). Nor does he, as one might have con- 
jectured, accompany this mention with a cry of horror. 
Quite the contrary ; he expresses his full approval, so far 
as the lot falls upon those " who are designed by Nature 
to serve, and who resist this their destination." For then 
subjugation is a blessing even to the captives themselves ! 
And here, it is to be observed, he is not concerned 
exclusively with men of another colour or marked by 
strong racial differences, circumstances which might help 
to explain, if not justify, such an illusion. The great mass 
of the slaves in Hellas drew their origin from Asia Minor 
and the countries round the Black Sea. Typical slave- 
names, such as Manes and Daos, direct us to the Thraco- 
Phrygian division of languages, and thus, so far as 
community of language implies affinity of race, to the 
Iranian branch of the Indo-European family. When a 
man of the lofty intellect and the humane sentiment which 
the Stagirite elsewhere exhibits is found to be so deceived 
as to confuse the low state of civilization attained by many 
peoples with an incapacity for attaining it, as, in particular, 
to mistake the efTects of slavery for its causes, and to 
discover in them adequate justification for violence and 
man-stealing, how urgent an admonition to modesty and 


self-criticism is conveyed to us by this monstrous error ! 
It is an error which seems all the more noteworthy when 
we reflect that the legitimacy of slavery had long been 
contested, that in the schools of philosophy, and even on 
the stage, the question had often been debated whether 
that institution rested on natural law or on mere conven- 
tion and arbitrary practice (cf. Vol. I. p. 404; Vol. II. 
p. 15 seq., 151). Nor did the author of the "Politics" 
remain untouched by these doubts any more than by the 
cognate movement towards a cosmopolitan spirit and a 
sentiment of universal humanity. Nothing, therefore, could 
be more instructive than to follow out the conflict which 
was waged within the mind and heart of our philosopher 
by these fundamentally opposed opinions and feelings. 

The arguments of the advocates of slavery and those 
of its opponents are marshalled against each other. The 
former launch out into long-winded reflexions on the 
universal occurrence, in external nature as in the human 
soul, of superior and of subordinate elements, the first 
bearing rule, the second doing service. The opponents — 
so this rhetorical tourney teaches us — had already made 
some use of the weapons supplied by what was known 
later as natural law. In opposition to the positive right 
possessed by the slave-owner, they appealed to a higher 
and inalienable right of humanity. For this is what it 
comes to when Aristotle makes them raise the " objec- 
tion of illegality " against the existing law. These words 
refer to a form of legal process by which at Athens it 
was possible to contest the admissibility of a project of 
law or the legality of a measure already voted in the 
assembly of the people by proving its incompatibility 
with some more general principle of law. Much in the 
same way, at the present time, the Supreme Court of the 
United States is entitled to annul a special law which 
violates a principle of the constitution or a fundamental 
right of the citizens. It is a revolting idea {so the 
philosopher makes the advocates of human rights protest) 
that mere superiority of power should suffice to justify the 
theft of liberty. For in the last resort it is solely the right 


of the stronger, the excess of force manifested in battle, 
by virtue of which the one has become the master, the 
other the slave. 

Here Aristotle makes an admission. Besides natural 
slavery there is also, as he allows, a slavery based merely 
on convention, that, namely, which depends on no distinc- 
tion of worth between two classes of men, but only on the 
changes and chances of war. But he hastens to qualify 
this concession by detecting in conquest a moral ele- 
ment on which, possibly mindful of a Heraclitean saying 
(cf. Vol. I. p. 72), he lays considerable emphasis. Superior 
power, he urges, is an outward advantage which is usually 
based on inward excellences, so that force is not as a rule 
destitute of every nobler element. On the other hand, he 
admits, it cannot be denied that the origin and occasion 
of a war may be unjust, and hence, so we may add, that 
the title accruing from it may be of slender validity. And 
again : though the vanquished may have proved their 
inferiority by the mere fact of their defeat, it by no means 
follows that their descendants share this inferiority, and 
are therefore unworthy of freedom. The inheritance of 
qualities is indeed the rule, but not a rule without excep- 
tions ; Nature possesses the tendency, but cannot realize 
it with rigorous exactitude. 

2. The advocate of slavery, we see, has not made his 
task a particularly easy one. Neither the haphazard of 
the battle-field nor the accident of birth — descent from 
prisoners of war — is accepted by him as deciding beyond 
objection who are to be slaves. The test of outward ap- 
pearance, too, often leaves us in the lurch. It is, indeed, 
the intentiofi of Nature to distinguish by external marks 
those who are fitted for menial tasks and those who are 
capable of higher things. But this tendency, again, is 
among those which cannot always be fulfilled. Where, 
then, are we to seek the distinctive sign which infallibly 
and unambiguously separates those "destined by Nature 
to slavery " from those appointed to freedom .'' We are 
almost ashamed to record the answer. After all the subtle 
distinctions, after all the ingenious pleas and counterpleas, 


nothing results except the crude pronouncement : " Let 
the alien serve the Hellene ; they are bondmen, we are 
free." This line of poetry (cf. Vol. II. p. 19) is quoted 
with approval, and its import reduced to its simplest ex- 
pression : " Barbarism and slavedom are by nature 

I know not what may be the effect of this utterance on 
others ; on myself it is one of petrifying astonishment. 
The whole of mankind, with the single exception of the 
Greeks, doomed to slavery, and that, apparently, in 
perpetuity ! 

It is true that, in proclaiming his own people the most 
excellent of all, Aristotle was not merely exercising an 
ordinary right. It needed no national prejudice to recog- 
nize that in art and science the Hellenes took by far the 
foremost rank ; that the combination of even approxi- 
mately equal merit with free political institutions was 
nowhere else to be found. But it raises a smile to read an 
elaborate generalization such as the following : 

" The peoples of the cold North and of Europe are 
courageous, and therefore remain in undisturbed possession 
of their freedom ; but they lack intelligence and skill in 
the arts ; for this reason they have no good political 
institutions and are incapable of ruling their neighbours. 
The Orientals, on the other hand, are distinguished by 
their intelligence and their skill in the arts ; but they lack 
courage ; hence they are perpetually dominated and en- 
slaved. But just as Greece occupies a middle position, so 
the Greek people shares the advantages of both. [Notice 
here the attempt at anthropo-geographical deductions, on 
which compare also Vol. I. p. 311, and the allusion to the 
doctrine of the mean.] This people is at once courageous 
and intelligent. Hence it preserves its freedom, possesses 
the best political institutions, and would be able, could it 
attain constitutional unity, to rule over all." 

That the peoples of Europe were not completely and 
for ever bereft of the capacity for ruling over their neigh- 
bours ; that the Greek climate and the national character 
supposed to result from it gave no guarantee against 



conquest and alien rule ; — all this would have been learnt 
by the Stagirite, could he have cast a glance upon a sadly 
near future, which was to transform proud Hellas into 
Achaia, a sorry province of the Roman Empire. The 
most remarkable point about this in every respect remark- 
able utterance is the confident expectation that the Greek 
people would gain dominion over the world if it renounced 
its constitutional disunion. Now, the only way to approach 
this goal, or, at the least, to preserve the national freedom, 
was to construct a federal state. So, at any rate, we should 
have expected a philosopher to think, for whom the per- 
manent union of Greece under monarchical rule was out of 
the question, for whom the rise of a monarchy seemed ex- 
cluded by the levelling culture of the age. It is thus truly 
astonishing that although in the " Polities " Aristotle treated 
fully of federal constitutions as well as those of separate 
states, in the " Politics " the federal state hardly receives 
even the most casual mention. 

3. But, to return to our main theme, that which is 
maintained and ostensibly proved in the passage just cited 
is the claim of Greece to political predominance, not the 
claim to hold in slavery any section whatever of barbarian, 
that is, not-Greek, humanity. The more carefully we 
reflect upon it, the more incomprehensible does the claim 
become. Let us make the largest possible allowance for 
national pride and conceit ; there remains the discrepancy 
between this wholesale condemnation of the barbarian 
world and the cordial acknowledgment which Aristotle 
himself makes of "barbarian" achievement. As an 
instance of these take the Carthaginian constitution ; so 
highly does he rate it that he places its description imme- 
diately after that of the two Greek pattern-constitutions 
(the Lacedaemonian and the Cretan), that he speaks of the 
three constitutions as "standing near to each other" and 
as " far surpassing " all others, that he freely uses expres- 
sions of praise such as "good," "excellent," " well-ordered," 
and devotes a whole section to the exposition on which this 
verdict rests. Yet in spite of all this, each individual 
member of that highly commended state is to be regarded 


as unfit for the free disposal of his own life, as appointed 
by Nature to slavery, as absolutely lacking the " capacity 
for reflexion," indeed, as an "altogether contemptible 

Still more glaring, if possible, is the contradiction in 
which Aristotle entangles himself when he is considering 
the most effective means of educating slaves. This, he 
holds, is to be found in a prospect which should be held 
out to them of a reward for good behaviour ; and this 
reward is — emancipation. How, it has long ago been 
asked, can the philosopher propose to take those whom 
Nature has destined to slavery and part them from this 
their destiny .<* how, on the other hand, can he detain in 
servitude till the tardy hour of emancipation those 
exceptional beings who here and there break through the 
general rule .-' Possibly Aristotle might have replied by 
giving a weakened version of his doctrine, somewhat to 
this effect: " If I have called the non-Greek a born slave, 
my intention was to state a general presumption. But 
still this presumption may be rebutted in particular cases, 
especially where a lifelong education comes into play ; and 
this conditional promise of emancipation counts among 
the most successful means of imparting such an education." 
This milder form of the principle seems to derive consider- 
able support from Aristotle's acknowledgment, already 
noticed by us, of a slavery based on mere convention, in 
addition to that based on Nature, as well as from the further 
admission, to which we have also called attention, that the 
offspring of slaves may sometimes fail to inherit the 
inferiority which robbed their progenitors of freedom and 
at the same time made them unworthy of it. If the author 
of the " Politics " had in both instances merely referred to 
Greeks to whose lot slavery had fallen, he would certainly 
have said so explicitly, and he would have protested, in 
words as unambiguous as Plato's, exclusively against the 
enslavement of Greek prisoners of war (cf. Vol. 111. p. 107). 

4. In any case we have to acknowledge a certain loose- 
ness of expression ; and this may well be utilized for the 
solution of the otherwise insoluble contradiction. Such 


looseness is by no means unparalleled in Aristotle's 
writings. Thus, to take one of the most flagrant instances, 
he uses the significant technical term "unwritten law" 
sometimes in the sense of customary, and sometimes in 
the sense of natural law, though the first is a part of 
positive law and the second the antithesis of it. So, again, 
the words " barbarian " and " barbaric " are sometimes 
employed by him with exclusive reference to primitive 
peoples and institutions, destitute of progressive civiliza- 
tion and lacking all refinement. For example, when he 
treats of the servile position of women among barbarians and 
of its cause (cf. p. 317), or when he speaks of archaic laws 
as " too simple and barbaric," he cannot possibly have in 
his mind civilized nations such as the Carthaginians and 
the Egyptians, the Persians or the Assyrians, Yet he 
takes no pains to discriminate this sense of the term from 
its other and more usual meaning. Indeed, this looseness 
of language paves the way presently for a more truly 
deplorable looseness, that of thought. As the less civilized 
peoples supplied the main contingent to the body of slaves 
then present in Greece, and as the state of servitude is in 
itself not a little apt to corrupt character, the reprehensible 
qualities due to want of civilization and those engendered 
by slavery were compounded by Aristotle into a single 
mass of badness which he called sometimes "slavish,'' 
sometimes " barbaric," and of which, in addition, he some- 
times spoke as if it were common to all non-Greeks 
without exception. 

'' Low," "unmanly," "slavish," — these are expressions 
which were used as equivalents even before Aristotle, But 
they merely incorporated the results of observation and 
naive prejudice ; no one claimed to find here a ground 
and justification of slavery. Just as little was the popular 
use of the term " barbarian " as an inclusive term for all 
men except Greeks intended to convey a philosophic 
theory and a scientific basis for the dichotomy of mankind. 
Aristotle, however, puts forth this dichotomy, and by so 
doing drew upon himself the severe censure of the great 
Alexandrian scholar, Eratosthenes, who followed him about 


a century later. It would be better, he said, to class men 
according to their excellences and defects ; many among 
the Greeks are uncultured, while among the barbarians 
many are refined and in possession of admirable institu- 
tions. But it was precisely in this interval, the reader will 
perhaps urge, that the Hellenistic epoch had opened. The 
consequences of Alexander's victories, in particular the 
foundation of cities with mixed nationality, such as 
Alexandria, had cut away the ground from the theories 
of Alexander's tutor. True as this may be, it is not the 
whole truth. There were profounder minds which had no 
need to wait for this ocular demonstration before they 
broke through the spell of national self-conceit, chastised 
this spirit with biting scorn, and indeed attacked the 
" dichotomy " of our race with the same words and the 
same earnestness as Eratosthenes. How illegitimate it 
is to " give to nations which do not know each other, 
which have no intercourse with each other and agree in 
nothing, the one name of ' barbarians,' and then, on the 
ground of this one denomination, assume that they form 
a single class. . . . Just as the Greeks contrast all others 
with themselves, might not some other race of intelligent 
creatures, say the cranes, become inflated with pride, and 
balance themselves against all other living beings, lumping 
into one mass all that are not cranes, men included, and 
dubbing them all alike ' beasts ' .'' " These are the words of 
Plato in the " Statesman." 

It may well surprise us that the pupil overlooked such 
a warning as this from his master. But the cause which 
held him to the low levels of hereditary prejudice was not 
this time his tendency, now so familiar to us, to accommo- 
date himself to tradition. Pride of race was here enlisted 
on behalf of a defence of slavery, and slavery was 
subservient to an ideal of the State. 

5. Aristotle's ideal of the State included a body of 
citizens with an abundance of leisure permitting them to 
devote themselves entirely to State-business ; and such a 
body, in spite of its large numbers, necessarily constituted 
an aristocracy, requiring as its complement at least a 


"banausic" class. What he meant by this term was 
a mass of persons destitute of political rights, dependent 
on the citizens, and looking to them for protection, 
consisting of farmers and mechanics, supplemented as a 
rule by a number of alien traders whose presence was 
tolerated in the State. Both for Aristotle and for Plato 
(in the " Republic "), such a class formed the necessary 
foundation on which to build the superstructure of a free 
and noble body of citizens. Falling far short of this ideal, 
but still not wholly unacceptable as a makeshift, was such 
a democracy as the Athenian, in the midst of which Aris- 
totle lived. Here the banausic element had a share in the 
government ; but for truly menial tasks even this company 
of artisans and " market-folk " was deemed too good. 
Slavery, so daily experience seemed to teach, no less than 
philosophic speculation, is an indispensable institution. 
So long as we live in the real world, and not in a world of 
dreams and fairy-tales, so long, he judged, services must 
be rendered the rendering of which is incompatible with 
the position of a politically or even personally free member 
of the State. It would be otherwise if the creations of 
poetic fancy were realities, " if the statues of Daedalus and 
the tripods of Hephaestus moved of themselves, if looms 
wove of their own accord, if, in general, every tool and 
implement fulfilled its task at, or in anticipation of, the 
word of command." The modern reader can here scarcely 
fail to be reminded of the triumphs of applied science, and 
of that world of machinery which has transformed into a 
reality what to one of the wisest of the Greeks seemed a 
type of the impossible. And, with this contrast before us, 
the hope may perhaps insinuate itself into our minds that 
the progressive liberation of men from purely mechanical 
tasks, as well as from those which demand mere bodily 
strength, combined with the expedients (unknown to 
antiquity) of representative government, may make more 
and more possible the fruitful participation of the masses 
in political life. 

When an institution appears to be the necessary 
foundation on which the social order rests, every age has 


proved able and ready to defend it by arguments of every 
kind, good and bad. Slavery itself, and not only in that 
mildest of its forms, the domestic slavery practised among 
the Islamic peoples, but even that negro slavery which 
lends itself at times to such fearful and violent misuse, has 
found eloquent and fiery defenders as late as in our own 
days. In the year 1845, J. H. Hammond, the ex-Governor 
of South Carolina, published " Two Letters oh Slavery in the 
United States," in which he condemned the anti-slavery 
movement as the fruit of a hateful rationalism which sets 
human reason above the Word of God. There lies before 
me a manifesto, signed by nearly a hundred ministers of 
the most diverse Protestant denominations, which, though 
it appeared in the midst of the American Civil War (1863), 
explicitly disclaims all political bias. " We consider 
Abolitionism," so declare the " Clergy of the Confederate 
States," "as an interference with the designs of Divine 
providence. It does not possess the signs of the Lord's 
blessing. . . . We declare in the sight of God that the 
relation of master and slave, much as we deplore abuses in 
this as in other human institutions, is not incompatible 
with our holy faith." Indeed, threats are held out with 
fearful explicitness of a "massacre of the blacks in case " 
the public safety absolutely demanded such a measure ; 
and the responsibility for this " darkest chapter in the 
history of human misery " is laid on the northern states 
which opposed slavery ! 

6. Aristotle, to be sure, is far removed from such 
hideous consistency. His inconsequence, indeed, seems 
to us to be, in this connexion, his highest title to honour. 
Apart from the inconsistencies which have already been 
mentioned, and which may possibly lie rather in the 
words than in the thoughts, there is one particular flaw 
which visibly runs through the whole of our philosopher's 
handling of this question. On the one hand, the slave is 
for him a mere thing and tool — " one tool in place of 
many," an " animated tool," not differing from a domestic 
animal, "a horse or an ox" — he needs but "little virtue," 
his master's advantage is his highest law, a friendship 


between bond and free is held to be as impossible as one 
between the artisan and his implement, or, it may be 
added, between gods and men (cf. p. 287). But on the 
other hand, all this is said to be true of the slave only as 
slave, not as man. " For it does not appear that there can 
be a total absence of right and justice in the relations of 
any man to any other who is capable of any share in law 
and contract ; thus the slave, so far as he is a man, may 
have a share in friendship as well." 

To us this distinction seems a mere artifice. On both 
occasions the subject of discussion is the possibility or 
impossibility of a friendship ; it is not a distinction such 
as in an analogous case might be drawn in something like 
the following terms : The monarch has chosen a subject 
to be his private friend ; the latter, as subject, owes him 
unconditional obedience ; as friend, he owes him unreserved 
candour, and therefore occasional contradiction. The case 
is different with the distinction between the purely legal 
situations which arise when the slave is considered, first as 
such, or secondly, as being also a man. As slave, the 
Stagirite may have thought, he owes his master, in return 
for lifelong protection and maintenance, his whole capacity 
for work and service ; the man in the slave, however, has a 
rightful claim to be exempt from additional exploitation, 
from the infliction of wilful injury to his health, from cruel 
maltreatment, from erotic abuse, and so on. But even 
between these two regions it would not be easy to draw 
the line with certainty. In making use of his slave's 
powers of work, is the master to be guided solely by his 
own interest } May he go as far as the mechanic does in 
the use of his tools, as the ploughman or the rider does in 
exploiting his ox or his horse .<* or should regard for the 
man come into play here so as to exert a moderating 
influence .-' 

Aristotle would scarcely have been able to return an 
unambiguous answer to these questions. We at least are 
inclined to the view that he was carried now hither, now 
thither, by varying currents of thought, that he vainly 
sought to harden himself against the humanitarian 


tendencies of the age, and that these left clear traces in 
his theory just as they entirely governed his practice. 
In his treatment of the question of slavery, much appears 
to be harsh and cruel, but that all this had its origin in his 
head and not in his heart may be learnt from the provisions 
of his will (cf. p. 25), which bestowed freedom on many, 
if not the majority, of the members of his extensive 

7. From slavery to the banausic condition there is but 
a step. Aristotle makes this step by calling the latter 
a " limited slavery," — limited because this condition, 
unlike true slavery, does not affect the life and being of 
the individual from birth onwards and throughout its whole 
compass. " No one is a cobbler by nature," whereas 
" slaves " — apart, possibly, from the rare exceptions which 
he mentions — " are destined by Nature to slavery." In his 
contempt for bread-winning occupations, our philosopher is 
at once the faithful disciple of his teacher and the inter- 
preter of the universal Greek sentiment — a sentiment 
which was most strongly marked in warlike Sparta, least 
strongly in busy Corinth, but which was nowhere entirely 
absent (cf. Vol. I. p. 417, and note). Even the language 
embodied this manner of thinking ; for it branded paid 
occupations with the stamp of " slavishness," and pronounced 
them " illiberal," that is, unworthy of the free man. 

Contempt for the mechanical went so far among the 
Greeks that even the practice of the fine arts did not 
remain exempt from the stigma. The wide difference 
between ancient and modern feeling in this respect receives 
astonishing illustration from such a pronouncement as the 
following of Plutarch's : No well-disposed young man, he 
says, however he may admire the plastic works of a Phidias 
or a Polycletus, the poetical and musical creations of an 
Archilochus or an Anacreon, would ever wish to be one 
of these men. " Just in the same way we enjoy the 
magnificence of purple garments and the fragrance of 
unguents, while we deem the dyers and the makers of 
unguents to be illiberal and banausic." According to an 
anecdote, which is also found in Plutarch, Alexander was 


once playing the lyre artistically at a banquet when 
King Philip called out to him : " Are you not ashamed to 
play so well ? " If this is true, the prince's philosophic 
tutor was in full accord with his royal father. He 
might, perhaps, have seconded Philip's warning with a 
learned observation which we find in the " Politics " : 
" None of the poets has represented Zeus as himself singing 
or striking the lyre," But more than this : his own widely 
extended learning might have brought him under the 
suspicion of being banausic himself, and that, too, on the 
ground of his own principles in relation to these matters. 
In the " Gorgias " of Plato we have noted (Vol. II. p. 334) 
the warning of Callicles against the " immoderate " pursuit 
of philosophy. We seem almost to hear the same voice 
again when the great polymath detects a danger for body 
and soul in the study of even the "liberal sciences." 
When this goes "beyond a certain measure," and strives 
after too great perfection, the " free man," he says, runs a 
risk of becoming " banausic." One is inclined to believe 
that he was afraid of hearing similar reproaches from the 
lips of his aristocratic friends. He forestalls them, at any 
rate, by distinctions of the same kind which Plato had used 
in order to divide, as by ditch and rampart, his own educa- 
tional activity from that of the sophists and rhetoricians 
(cf. Vol. I. p. 418). A strange spectacle. One of the 
greatest, if not the greatest, among the scholars of all time 
cannot bear to be a scholar by profession. He would 
rather pass for a dilettante and man of the world, who 
researches, teaches, and writes for his own and his friends' 
pleasure ; anything on earth but a professional who culti- 
vates the sciences " for the sake of others," that is, in the 
exercise of a calling and for reward. So great is his terror 
of all that is banausic, of all that " robs the mind of its 
freedom and strips it of its majesty." 

8. Property was still less a protection than education 
against the banausic stigma. The author of the " Politics " 
complains that in oligarchies, in which there is a high 
property-qualification for positions of authority, while wage- 
earners are excluded from citizenship, the same does not 


apply to banausic persons in general, many of whom attain 
great wealth. And yet it is as impossible for the one 
class as the other "to devote themselves wholly to the 
requirements of virtue." For civic virtue is possible for 
him alone " who is not only free-born, but also free from all 
modes of work which serve the needs of daily life." That 
he is here not thinking merely of manual labour of the 
meaner kind is proved, not only by the remark just alluded 
to concerning the wealth of parvenus, but also by many 
other utterances, in which wage-earners and banausic 
persons in the narrower sense, that is, manual labourers, 
are found in company with the whole class of those engaged 
in trades and crafts, and in which the life of all these 
classes is pronounced "evil and forsaken of virtue." 

To enter into this way of thinking is no easy task for 
us moderns, who everywhere see riches surrounded with 
social regard, and in many cases distinguished by political 
privileges. In order not to be unjust to the philosopher 
and the view of life which he represents, it is well to 
remember that false generalizations of a similar kind are 
not unknown among ourselves. It is certain that inde- 
pendence of character is not wholly absent from the class 
of man-servants. Yet we do not scruple to use a word 
like " flunkeyism " to describe character which is the 
opposite of independent, on the simple ground that the 
position occupied by those belonging to this class is only 
too well calculated to impair self-reliance and manliness. 
If Aristotle had known merchant princes who promoted 
culture, as the Fugger family and the Medici did, or even 
modern traders willing, like Schliemann or Nobel, to 
employ their acquired wealth in the service of the common 
welfare, assuredly his judgment on " market-folk and 
retailers " would have had a very different sound. But the 
majority of traders in ancient Hellas doubtless provoked 
the same disagreeable impression which we receive to-day 
in Southern lands from great numbers of importunate and 
untrustworthy chafferers — men who now artfully cheat 
their customer, now impudently overreach him, a haggling 
and screeching multitude. 



The sharpest possible contrast to all this must have 
been supplied by the members of a community like Sparta. 
Freed from that care for daily needs which harasses and so 
easily narrows the soul, free, too, from the dodges and tricks 
of petty profit-mongering, trained to the extreme of fear- 
lessness, both by a discipline imposed on youth for that 
express purpose, and by the incessant practice of war, 
animated by the most punctilious sense of honour and 
filled with proud reserve, accustomed to face death for the 
fatherland, — such were at least the majority of that lordly 
race ; and though their failings in other respects may have 
been many and great, they represented a type which stood 
out in bright relief from the dark background provided by 
the other class which we have described. Let us remember, 
finally, that the " virtue " which Aristotle, like his country- 
men and his philosophic predecessors, held high above all 
else, was the virtue of sturdy self-assertion, of manly pride, 
of devotion to the common weal, and, in far lower measure, 
that of gentleness, of humility, and what have been called 
the " huckstering virtues " ; his position will then appear to 
us far more intelligible than one is inclined to think at first. 

In this discussion of the State's social basis, constitu- 
tional questions have already presented themselves more 
than once. We must now devote our full attention to 
them, but first of all to the fundamental question of the 
function and purpose of the State as such. 




aristotle's theory of the state. 

(The Conflict of Forms of State.) 

I. No contrast is more glaring than that between 
Humboldt's and Aristotle's views on the purposes and the 
boundaries of the action of the State. The first regards 
the State as an evil to be confined within the narrowest 
limits, the activity of which is only justified by necessity. 
The second objects against even the chief of the pattern- 
constitutions, the Lycurgean, that it does not go far 
enough in the tutelage of the citizens. In the one case 
there is an all-absorbing anxiety to maintain intact the 
individuality of the citizens and to promote its most 
powerful development ; in the other there is as little 
concern about this aim as if that imperishable programme 
of individual freedom, the funeral oration of Pericles, had 
never been spoken (cf. Vol. I. pp. 5, 6; Vol. II. pp. 40, 41). 
The European and American society of the present day 
includes two parties, of which one would give the State 
nothing, the other all. The broad middle stratum 
professes neither of the two extreme opinions, but probably 
holds a position much nearer to that of the ancient Greek 
sage than to that of the German who was almost our own 

Ever louder and louder rises the cry for the extension 
of benevolent institutions, for greater protection of the 
economically weak ; less and less do we hear the counter- 
cry warning us against that weakening which is inevitably 
suffered by personal initiative when its place is taken in 
ever-increasing measure by the fostering care of the State. 
vol. IV, z 


Yet whatever is destined to be the outcome of these cross- 
currents of opinion, there are certain highly important 
distinctions now familiar to us, which were overlooked by 
anti-State radicalism — the distinction between the coercive 
power of the State and its helpful activity, making no use 
of force, but working partly by encouragement and partly 
by instruction : and then again within the coercive sphere 
itself, between that coercion which does, and that which 
emphatically does not, tend to stifle or to misdirect 
individual powers. What a gulf yawns between the 
forcible imposition of faith, thought, or even morality, on 
the one hand, and the use of compulsion to obtain 
statistical information on the other ! It makes the greatest 
difference conceivable whether we choke up a stream at 
the source, or place a momentary obstruction in its course 
in order that it may turn a mill-wheel for us. 

Was antiquity quite without advocates for that which 
the modern world has become accustomed to speak of 
contemptuously as the " policeman state " ? or were there 
even then thinkers who like Humboldt, and like Mirabeau 
whom Humboldt quotes, conceived the sole task of the 
State as the providing of security, both by the protection 
of the law and by defence against external enemies ? An 
affirmative answer to this question might be gathered 
from certain polemical utterances of the Stagirite, which 
will soon engage our attention. But besides this he 
reports a saying, a very curt one it is true, of Gorgias' 
pupil, Lycophron, which we can hardly interpret except in 
this sense. We have already made the acquaintance of 
this Sophist as a theorizer on knowledge, who proposed to 
overcome the difficulties arising from the idea of Being by 
the radical method of absolutely avoiding the use of the 
copula (cf. Vol. I. p. 493). In the province of social science, 
he showed his radicalism chiefly in this, that, contrary 
to Aristotle, he denied any and every value to illustrious 
descent, and placed the low-born on an absolute equality 
with the nobly born. When, therefore, we learn that he 
spoke of law based on contract as " the mutual guarantor 
of rights," and when we find this definition coupled with 


a repudiation of all educational activity on the part of 
the State, we have good cause for regarding Lycophron 
as a champion of the legal State in the narrowest sense of 
the expression. Considering the unqualified Laconizing 
tendency both of Plato and of his disciple, considering, 
too, the imperfect distinction between law and morality 
throughout antiquity, and the predominating inclination to 
invest the administrative authority with nothing short of 
omnipotence, the attempt to discriminate between essen- 
tially different spheres must be regarded as meritorious, in 
spite of its onesidedness. 

2. Neither a tariff union nor a military convention makes 
a state out of the districts which it binds together ; just 
as little can this end be achieved by a joint-stock company. 
We have here somewhat modernized the garment of 
language, but faithfully reproduced the thought. The 
author of the " Politics " desires to illustrate his positive 
conception of the State by the contrast with instances 
which on a superficial consideration appear as analogous 
to it. But '' for him who looks deeper " it is not an asso- 
ciation for war or for trade, neither a company formed for 
gain, nor a mere provision for security. First and fore- 
most, we are told, it is an educational institution. More 
precisely, it is "a community of good life, embracing both 
families and tribes, intended to promote full and inde- 
pendent existence." One necessary condition for this, 
in addition to the reciprocal right of free intermarriage, is 
residence in the same place. But this is not the essential ; 
if it were, the activity of the State would be limited to the 
provision of security, and the State itself would be merely 
an " alliance," differing from ordinary alliances only by 
the local contiguity of the parties to it. Stress is again 
laid on full and independent existence, which is now 
identified with happy and (morally) beautiful life. Hence 
those who excel in political virtue contribute more to the 
community and have more claim upon the State than 
those who lag behind in this respect, even though they 
have the advantage of free or noble birth, or of riches. 
The transition to the question as to the seat of sovereignty 


is assisted by the remark that the advocates of the 
different forms of government propound what are merely 

3. The " element of the State," the citizen, has already 
been treated of. Naturally, he is not absolutely identified 
with the resident in the State-territory. This class com- 
prised also the immigrant and the slave. After a few 
fruitless attempts, the distinctive mark of the citizen is 
found to be his participation in the acts of the State and 
his exercise of official authority. In spite of the appear- 
ance to the contrary, the juror and the member of the 
popular assembly must be regarded as officials, although 
their tenure of office is not for a specified period. (The 
Athenian, for example, supposing him to be of unblemished 
character, entered upon those functions on attaining a 
certain age without further preliminaries.) 

This definition, as Aristotle admits, applies most strictly 
to the members of a democratic community. (It is note- 
worthy here that the philosopher is sufficiently influenced 
by his Athenian surroundings to take this form of govern- 
ment as a starting-point, in spite of the depreciation of it 
which followed from his principles.) For other forms of 
the State the definition must be modified, since the powers 
of government are now wielded by persons with a limited, 
instead of an unlimited, period of authority. Here, there- 
fore, the name of citizen must be given to those who are 
not excluded from access to the functions of deliberation or 
decision. But a difficulty arises from the fact that for 
practical purposes the citizen is defined as the descendant 
of citizens — as the son, grandson, or great-grandson of one 
who had that quality. How, it is asked, can the first 
member of such a series have been himself a citizen ? The 
answer is simple enough. If the men who founded such 
families possessed citizenship, in the sense of eligibility to 
office, then they were citizens, even though their ancestors 
were not. The case is much the same with persons raised 
to citizenship from the status of slaves or immigrants — as 
was done on a large scale by the Athenian Clisthenes (cf. 
Vol. II. p. 39). 


A more important question relates to the identity of the 
State. Is this extinguished by a revolution, and do the 
obligations incurred by the old government necessarily 
bind the new one ? No general answer is given to this 
question. The identity of the State depends chiefly, it is 
contended, on the identity of the constitution, and is as 
little affected by the change of the population as the 
identity of a river is by the incessant renewal of its water. 
In this discussion, it is to be observed, the distinction 
between the city and the State (cf. p. 311) is touched upon 
though in the further course of the work it is again lost to 

4. The question as to the seat of sovereignty coincides 
with that as to the different forms of government and their 
several values. These forms are now named and divided 
into two fundamentally distinct classes. On the one hand 
are the " right " forms of State, which seek the welfare of the 
whole commuity. On the other hand are the caricatures of, 
or at any rate the " deviations " from, them. Monarchy, or 
the rule of one man conditioned by " a certain order," is 
opposed to the arbitrary rule of a king, or tyranny. The 
rule of the best, otherwise aristocracy contrasts with 
oligarchy, or the rule of the richest ; and the constitutional 
State in the narrower sense, with democracy or mob-rule 
(cf. Vol. III. p. 183). One would now naturally expect a 
full description of all these forms, or at least of the " right " 
ones, to precede the comparison of them and the appraise- 
ment of their relative worth. But Aristotle pursues a 
different course. He enters upon a criticism of the funda- 
mental claims put forward by the partisans of the different 
constitutions, and seeks to prove that these claims are all 
based on half-truths. Once more we have one of those 
dialectical tourneys in which Aristotle is so fond of dis- 
playing the peculiar wealth and flexibility of his mind. 

The question as to the justification of oligarchy and 
democracy is governed by the idea of equality. The one 
side holds equality, the other inequality, to be the true and 
just basis. But here they overlook the relativity of the 
idea. Equality is a right, but only for equals ; so also is 


inequality, but only for the unequal. Again, partial 
equality, or inequality, is mistaken for total. The oligarchs 
think that, because they are unequal (that is unequal, or 
superior to the mass) in one point, namely, in property, 
therefore they are unequal, or superior, in everything ; the 
democrats, on the other hand, imagine that because they 
are equal in one point, as being free-born, they are equal 
absolutely. The oligarchical claim pleads the injustice of a 
man who has contributed only i mina having the same 
share in loo minaj as the man who has contributed the 
other 99, The inference is sound so far as relates to the 
partners in a trading concern. But this the State emphati- 
cally is not ; in it civic virtue and its gradations mean far 
more than the different degrees of material wealth. 

Suppose, however, the claim of the democrats allowed, 
so that the majority becomes the sovereign : how if the 
propertyless persons who compose this majority divide 
among themselves, first the estates of the wealthy, and 
then, when these are exhausted, the substance of the 
moderately well-to-do } Would that not be unjust t It 
may be contended that an act performed by decree of the 
sovereign must be legitimate, and therefore just. But 
obviously the act considered is destructive of the State, and 
that which destroys the State cannot possibly be just ; 
consequently — so we are bound to infer — the authority 
which decrees such an act cannot be the rightful sovereign. 
Perhaps, then, the " respectable " people alone ought to 
possess the whole of official authority and full sovereignty. 
In that case all the remainder would suffer a loss of honour 
in being excluded from official positions, which we regard 
as always honourable. And, again, if we travel further on 
the same road, all office will in the end come into the sole 
possession of one man, the most competent of all; and 
thus the loss of honour will be universal. It may be 
objected, however, that we ought to have for sovereign, not 
a man, who necessarily is endowed with human passions, 
but the law itself, which is impersonal and dispassionate. 
Very good ; but even so the difficulty is not overcome. 
For if the law were a democratic or an oligarchic law, we 


should come round by another circuit to the same evil con- 
sequences as before. 

5. In treating this fundamental question, Aristotle is 
unable to satisfy himself. A new argument is adduced 
in favour of the sovereignty of the people, an argument 
which "perhaps includes the truth within itself." It 
depends on the distinction between the ideas " collective " 
and "distributive." Possibly no one individual out of the 
many may be entirely competent, and yet, taken all 
together, they may be better than the best. (We are 
reminded of the French saying : " II y a quelqu'un qui a 
plus d'esprit que M. de Voltaire, c'est tout le monde.") 
The total achievement resulting from the many contribu- 
tions is likened to a picnic, which often turns out better 
than a meal prepared by a single person. It is a compari- 
son to which Aristotle has recourse a second time ; clearly 
he thought it more than a mere dialetical makeshift. 
The multitude thus comes almost to be an individual with 
many hands, many feet, and many organs of sense ; may 
not the same hold good in respect of character and 
intellect ? For the multitude judges better than any one 
critic the merits of musical and poetical compositions. 
We may here remark that Aristotle can scarcely have been 
thinking of anything else than the awards made at 
Athenian prize-competitions by judges chosen from the 
general public by lot. He must have approved of their 
decisions on the whole, in spite of the censure with which 
he occasionally visits the musical fashions of his age. 
Thus the artistic taste of the highly cultured philosopher 
was, mainly at any rate, in unison with that of the average 
Athenian. His admission that this collective ability, 
though certainly not to be found everywhere, does yet 
occur in one or the other demos, must be interpreted in 
favour of Athens, the democracy of which, as we shall see, 
is judged by Aristotle with remarkable leniency. 

With this the controversy appears to be decided. But 
presently a new doubt emerges, relating to the admissibility 
of the mass to the highest offices of state. Such admission 
gives rise it is urged, to well-founded anxiety. But, on 


the other hand, the exclusion of the many is highly 
objectionable, since it threatens to multiply indefinitely 
the enemies of the State. For this reason Solon and some 
other legislators had recourse to the expedient of giving 
the multitude a share in the election of magistrates and 
in the holding to account of officials, while prohibiting their 
personal exercise of office. In combination the many may 
possess sufficient understanding ; and so far they may be 
compared with a foodstuff of inferior value which is mixed 
with a superior kind (as, for instance, bran with flour), and 
makes the whole more productive. Again, reasons and 
counter-reasons are played off against each other, but with 
a result not unfavourable to the advocates of democracy. 
The Solonian expedient is attacked by an objection based 
on what may be called the Socratic and Platonic apprecia- 
tion, or over-appreciation, of professional knowledge : as a 
physician ought to render account only to physicians, so, 
too, ought those who practise other arts to be controlled 
only by their like. To this it is answered that, apart 
from the collective capacity of the multitude, there are 
many things the goodness of which is better appraised 
by the user than by the maker ; thus the quality of a 
banquet, for example, is better judged by a guest than by 
a cook. Finally, the collectivity argument is employed in 
a new way. Suppose that, even in democracies, many 
important positions of trust may only be filled by a large 
tax-payer, while the man who pays little or no taxes may 
help to elect him, there is here no real inconsistency. It 
must not be forgotten that the individual elector is a 
member of a great whole, the electorate, which collectively 
owns a taxable capital equal, and indeed superior, to that 
of the eligible candidate. 

In view of the imperfection which necessarily attaches 
to the holder of supreme power in the State it is once 
more declared desirable that this supremacy should, as far 
as possible, reside in the laws themselves ; it should be 
exercised by personal rulers, whether one or many, only 
so far as the laws are unable to exhaust the abundance of 
individual cases. Reference is here made to the intimate 


connexion between laws and constitutional forms; "the 
former must be adapted to the latter." Just laws are 
possible only within the right forms ; in those of the 
contrary kind there is no room for them. 

6. The lecturer now makes a fresh start. The problem 
of equality gives him no rest. He feels the need of 
working out more amply than had at first been possible, 
the fruitful subject of the danger of confusing partial with 
total equality and inequality. It is not every inequality 
or superiority which can rightly confer a privilege. The 
privilege must rest upon an excellence which has some 
connexion with the favoured activity. A drastic instance 
is given. Suppose that flutes arc to be distributed among 
flute-players of equal excellence : ought some of these, 
because they are of noble birth, to receive more flutes than 
the others ? Certainly not. " For they blow the flute 
none the better for that." 

Nor again is it practicable to set up a scale of 
inequalities or superiorities and maintain their commen- 
surability throughout. For example, it may be thought 
that virtue is worth more than stature ; but a certain 
extraordinarily high measure of stature may be worth 
more than a certain very low degree of virtue. A com- 
petition of this kind is free from such absurdities only 
where we have to do with the true elements of the State. 
Thus wealth may claim privilege because the community 
cannot consist entirely of the propertyless ; the rich, too, 
are generally better trusted in ordinary business matters. 
Nobility, again, denotes noble race ; we may reasonably 
expect that the descendants of the better will themselves 
be better. The claim of virtue is also well-founded ; for 
justice, which is indispensable for the welfare of the 
community, in a certain sense includes all the other virtues 
within itself. Lastly, the claim which the majority founds 
upon its collective superiority is by no means void. Here, 
however, an objection presents itself which applies to all 
political privileges alike which rest on such foundations 
as these. Granted that wealth supplies a title to privilege, 
how if one single man (or a very few) is richer than all 


the rest put together ? The same difficulty appeared in 
the case of noble birth, and again in that of virtue, and 
even in that of physical strength, if strength be regarded 
as justifying the rule of the many. On each of the hypo- 
theses the one who surpasses all others (or the few who 
do so) would have to be the sovereign. Thus pushed to 
extremes, all the criteria considered prove unsound. 

7. The supposition which was made originally for the 
sake of a reductio ad absurdmn is still kept in sight. The 
thought that a single person may surpass all others in 
value, though it seemed at first a mere dialectical artifice, 
has gained a more serious significance by being dwelt 
upon. Such a person would move through the world " as 
a god among men." Legislation, however, can deal only 
with persons of approximately the same character and 
strength ; exceptional natures are " a law to themselves." 
Attempt to bring them under the yoke of a common 
standard, and their language will be that which Antisthenes 
makes the lion use when the hares delivered political 
speeches and preached universal equality. Observe the 
resurrection of the superman, whose cause was pleaded by 
Callicles in Plato's " Gorgias," not without the author's 
sympathy (cf. Vol. II. p. 333) ; his type, the king of beasts, 
is likewise not forgotten. 

The difficulty which arises in respect of exceptional 
natures moved democracies, so we now read, to the intro- 
duction of ostracism (judgment by potsherd). Here, it 
must be admitted, the idea of the exceptional or superman 
has undergone a modification ; it is no longer a question 
solely of exceptional personal excellences, but also of the 
mere excess of power which results from wealth, from 
the size of a man's following, or from political importance 
otherwise acquired. It is confessed, further, that in practice 
the employment of ostracism has often been determined by 
party considerations. For our part, that institution seems 
most comparable to the banishment of pretenders and to 
other similar measures, harsh, but often indispensable, 
which have been taken against persons of excessive 
influence. Aristotle couples with ostracism the Athenian 


mode of dealing with those members of their maritime 
confederacy which, Hke Chios and Samos, became danger- 
ous by their power ; and he adds the Persian treatment 
of refractory nationalities, such as the Medes and the 
Babylonians. Yet another example is drawn from the 
sphere of plastic arts : " No painter will leave in his 
picture a foot which exceeds the measure of symmetry, 
no matter how beautiful it may be." This defence of 
levelling tendencies concludes with the remark that it 
would certainly be better to have the constitution so 
framed from the first that remedies like these should 
not be necessary. The next best thing, however, is to 
seek a readjustment by the use of the appropriate correc- 
tive. In spite of these concessions, it still remains an 
open question how the State with the best constitution is 
to act towards those who stand above the rest, not in 
bodily strength, or riches, or number of adherents, but 
in virtue. No one would advise that such a man should 
be expelled, or even temporarily excluded, from the State 
territory. But just as little may he be subjected to authority. 
That would be much the same as if the rotation of office 
were to be carried so far as to place Zeus himself under 
orders. Nothing then remains but " joyful obedience " to 
these men, the truly royal natures. 

8. An easy transition now leads to the next section, 
in which first monarchy and then the other forms of 
government are discussed. We, however, need, before we 
pass on, to glance once more over the dialectical tourney 
which we have witnessed, for the sake of comparison and 
criticism. The arguments which have been propounded 
vary enormously in excellence and perhaps even in serious- 
ness. Samples of high statesmanlike wisdom stand side 
by side with trivial, one might almost say sophistic, 
reasonings and quibbles, worthy of the law courts. 

The deepest depth is reached by the argument 
relating to the " taxable capital." If, even in advanced 
democracies, certain important positions of trust were 
guarded by a high property-qualification, the purpose of 
this was to secure a twofold fjuarantee. In case of loss 


through the carelessness or dishonesty of the official, the 
State could indemnify itself out of his property ; besides, 
there was less probability of misconduct in the case of 
a man whose material situation saved him from many 
a temptation. There was not much relevance in the 
objection that the numerous poor members of the popular 
or tribal, assembly take part in the election of such 
officers, and that thus property is subordinated to the 
lack of property. But what connexion is there between 
this objection and the remark that the total property, 
or taxable capital, of the many is as great as, or greater 
than, the amount which the official is required to possess ? 
This summation of trivial amounts seems to us an entirely 
illegitimate artifice, since property in a state of extreme 
subdivision can produce none of the effects of which it 
is capable when concentrated under a single hand. Nor, 
in our opinion, does the pic-nic comparison run on all- 
fours. Perversities of opinion, as well as true perceptions, 
enter into the general stock. More exactly, while it may 
be true that one purely intellectual error is often com- 
pensated by another, and that common sense, or the 
sound average judgment of a great number, prevails over 
individual whims and aberrations, the argument is still 
anything but convincing. It overlooks the infectious force 
of temporarily predominant tendencies, all that is included 
under the head of fashionable folly and the contagion of 
masses. It fails us altogether in cases where anti-social 
interests come into play rather than want of intellectual 
clearness. Aristotle was acquainted with the communistic 
tendencies, as we may briefly call them, which result 
from the ordinary situation of the great majority, and 
he described them as the greatest of the dangers inherent 
in the rule of the many. But this objection is not removed 
by the pic-nic argument ; it seems rather to have become 
lost for a time to the philosopher's view. We come to 
the special claims which wealth, moral excellence, and 
so on, seem to be justified in raising. When these are 
met by an appeal to extreme cases (the richest of all, 
the justest of all, would then obtain exclusive sovereignty) 


this argument, too, appears to us not unanswerable. When 
a principle of practice does not stand the test of an 
extreme application, that is nothing against its goodness, 
but only against its exclusive validity. It only proves 
that other principles share the field of its applicability, 
that these also demand to be taken into account and 
cannot be neglected with impunity. But Aristotle appears 
to have meant much more than this. 

We are more favourably impressed by what Aristotle 
has to say on the participation of the multitude in the 
election of officers, and the holding of them to account. 
He is attempting to overcome the objection that by this 
means the State becomes dependent, in regard to its most 
important interests, upon that very multitude which is 
judged incompetent to manage them. This objection 
certainly appears well founded, for by this road the State 
drifts surely, if slowly, into democracy. But the circum- 
stance favourable to Aristotle is this, that the author of this 
innovation, the wise Solon, by no means intended to create 
a democracy, and did not directly create one. It was thus 
possible, temporarily, at least, to allow the Demos this far- 
reaching power without making it immediately and abso- 
lutely the master of the State. But the culminating point 
of these arguments is to be found, we imagine, in a thought 
which is far removed from Socratic doctrinairism, and 
its embodiment in Plato's " pedantocracy " — the thought, 
namely, that in things political it is not always and every- 
where professional training and expert knowledge that is 
required, that, on the contrary, here and elsewhere the user 
of an object, and not the producer, is the truly competent 

9. This contest between forms of government to which 
we have devoted so much space provides us with a beacon 
well fitted to illuminate the remainder of our journey. It 
is permeated by the thought that the champions of the 
different forms of State are in no case able to put forward 
more than partial or half-truths. We are thus prepared to 
find the author of the " Politics " bestowing on none of 
these forms unstinted praise and unqualified recognition. 


The truth lies in the mean. This fundamental note of the 
" Ethics " is struck once more in the treatise devoted to the 
sister science. We may expect, accordingly, that Aristotle 
will prefer the tempered to the pure forms of State, the 
mixture of principles to the ruthless following out of any 
one principle. We shall not be surprised if suggestions of 
compromise frequently emerge, nor even if the passion for 
compromise becomes at times almost a caricature of that 
manysidedness which we found so characteristic of the last 
phase of Aristotle's master (cf. Vol. III. pp. 176, 235). 

But our critical examination of that dialectical tourney 
was more particularly intended to pave the way for another 
and more important consideration. We had to point out 
contradictions, chiefly in order to prepare for their explana- 
tion. The lack of consistency in Aristotle's judgment upon 
democracy may be traced back to its origin in a twofold 
source : theoretical reflexion and personal experience. The 
democracy in the midst of which he lived, that of Athens, 
presented to him, on the whole, a much less unpleasant 
picture than the one which he had deduced from general 
and a priori principles. His treatment of monarchy, to 
which we now pass on, will produce in us an almost 
exactly opposite impression. 



aristotle's theory of the state. 


I . The praise of monarchy is sounded in resonant strains. 
It is named the best of all forms of government. The 
precedence due to it is said to be made evident even by the 
contrary character of its degenerate form, tyranny, since 
everywhere the best becomes the worst when corrupted 
{Corruptio optimi pessiina). Who that reads such words can 
doubt that Aristotle was a convinced, an enthusiastic 
adherent of monarchy ">. There is but one difficulty. With 
what purpose did Aristotle take such pains over the 
elaboration of his own " best constitution," if the best of 
constitutions was already in existence, barely admitting of 
a final touch in details, and certainly not requiring to be 
modelled anew '^. The truth of the matter is this. That 
monarchy which is praised above all else is no monarchy 
known to history ; it is a Utopia in the true sense, a fabric 
without date or place, one which, so far as Aristotle knows, 
has never and nowhere subsisted in fact, unless perhaps as 
an isolated accident of the rarest kind. This will be 
understood as soon as we consider the demands made 
upon this monarchy. The king must satisfy the most 
extraordinary expectations. He must " be sufficient to 
himself, possess all goods and advantages, so that he may 
need nothing and desire nothing for himself, but pursue 
exclusively the welfare of his subjects." All this is 
altogether out of harmony with the impressions which 
our philosopher received from the rulers of his day. For 
proof, we might cull an anthology from his references 


to court-life. " Virtue and reason are not at home on 
thrones ; " " the possessors of power need only two kinds 
of companions — unscrupulous tools and entertaining 
society-men " (we might almost say bravi and clowns) ; 
" private persons are superior, not inferior, to princes 
in respectability." 

But here an objection may be raised. We shall 
perhaps be accused of indiscriminately citing expressions 
of blame which refer to tyrants or usurpers as much as 
to legitimate kings. But Aristotle himself has not 
attempted or accomplished a clear demarcation between 
the two. Many of the terms which he uses in these 
passages are of quite general import ; he speaks of 
" rulers," " princes," " possessors of power," without noticing 
in the slightest degree the origin of the authority. At 
all events we nowhere find in any of his works one word 
of warm praise for a contemporary monarch. It is always 
kings of the legendary age or of the earliest historical period 
who are praised, in contrast with the present state of 
affairs, as " benefactors " of their people ; and, indeed, the 
boundary between ideal monarchy and the monarchy 
of the heroic age is anything but sharply defined. 

2. The true king can thus only be one of those heaven- 
favoured exceptional natures that may be compared with 
Zeus himself. The monarchy, however, which distantly 
approaches this ideal, and which is not practicable in 
contemporary Greece, has a task which is thus stated : 
Keep watch over the rights of the propertied as well 
as over those of the mass, so that the second may suffer 
no grievous wrong, and the first no spoliation. Such 
kings were once raised to the throne for their virtues, 
their deeds, or the deeds of their kindred, by the higher 
classes desirous of preserving their privileges. In addition, 
services to civilization, the foundation of states, or the 
liberation of them by war have gained the royal dignity 
for the men by whom they were accomplished. Besides 
heroic monarchy, mention is made of barbaric monarchy 
(which in most cases is not wholly unlimited), of a 
monarchy which is elective instead of hereditary (such 


a king is called an " assymnete " or dictator), and, lastly, 
of the Spartan monarchy, which with its extraordinary 
limitations came to little more than an hereditary general- 
ship. After elimination of those forms of state which 
are monarchies rather in name than reality, the question 
as to the advantages and disadvantages of kingship is 
reduced to this : What gain or loss comes from the un- 
limited or almost unlimited power of a single man ? 

" The best of all constitutions " does not emerge 
altogether unscathed from the dialectical cross-fire. The 
discussion opens by asking which is preferable, the rule 
of the best man or the rule of the best laws. The 
advocates of monarchy appeal to the impossibilty of laws, 
which are quite general, doing justice to all the particular 
cases which come under them. This admitted, the new 
question arises whether these inevitable gaps in legislation 
are rather to be filled by the best one than by many good. 
The simile of the pic-nic reappears, and with it another, 
and as we think, less questionable comparison : a large 
body of water is less exposed to corruption than a small 
one, and the same holds good of a large number of men. 
Aristotle shows his seriousness in this argument by his 
re-employment of it in the "Constitution of the Athenians." 
He there justifies the Athenian Demos in reserving to 
itself judicial decisions which had formerly been within 
the competency of the " Council " by remarking that " the 
few are easier to corrupt by money or favour than the 
many." Here, the place of the many is taken by a 
number of honest citizens. To the objection that party 
divisions may reign among these, the answer is made 
that " even they, if they are as good as the one man, will 
not be led into evil by their divisions." Thus aristocracy, 
the rule of a great number of excellent citizens, is 
preferred to monarchical rule. Men have only suffered 
themselves to be governed by kings because in past 
ages, especially in states of limited extent, the desired 
number of good citizens was lacking. A greater degree 
of historical correctness will probably be allowed to the 
sketch, which now follows, of political development. The 
VOL. IV. 2 A 


exploitation of official position for the purpose of enrich- 
ment has converted aristocracies of the kind described 
into oligarchies. With the growing narrowness of an 
oligarchy, the opposition to it of the excluded multitude 
has also increased. Attacks on the oligarchic government 
have led, first, to tyranny, and, through this, to democracy. 
What the philosopher had here in his mind was perhaps 
mainly the true thought that the power of the multitude 
was earlier sufficient to support a usurper's bid for 
authority than to defend its own interests independently. 

3. After this historical digression, the inherent dis- 
advantages of monarchy are enumerated. In the forefront 
stands the undiscriminating haphazard of inheritance. 
Then comes the danger of a misuse of military power. 
Next, unlimited monarchy is termed contrary to nature, 
because it conflicts with the equality which by nature 
befits equals. The exceptional natures which tower above 
the generality are here tacitly ignored, and with perfect 
justice, since the discussion is concerned with monarchy as 
a permanent institution. For equals, the taking of turns in 
ruling and obeying may be recommended ; but so far as it 
is advisable to grant larger powers to individuals, these 
should be appointed, in every case, as guardians and 
servants of the laws. Provision, too, is made by the law 
for a political education which makes it possible to trust 
an official to decide individual cases justly. The rule of 
law is the rule of reason and of God ; he who adds man 
adds also the beast that dwells in the human breast. 

The advocates of monarchy are credited with the 
assertion that the ruler, like other men, needs freedom of 
judgment ; to hold him unconditionally to the law would 
be much as if one were to insist on the physician curing 
" by the book " (according to the letter of scientific pre- 
cepts), as indeed is actually done in Egypt within certain 
limits. To this Aristotle replies that the two cases are not 
of like nature ; the interest of the physician coincides 
with that of the patient ; it is otherwise in politics, where 
one man does much for the sake of pleasing or annoying 
another, Besides, when a physician comes under suspicion 


of being in league with the patient's enemies, that repu- 
diated " treatment by the book " will be greatly preferred. 
And if personal intelligence stands higher than the letter 
of the law, it does not possess the same superiority over 
the truly fundamental laws embodied in the customs and 
character of a people. Yet again, the single ruler is abso- 
lutely unable to supervise everything himself ; he will 
always need many helpers to share the work of govern- 
ment with him. What difference, then, does it make 
whether this partition of power exists from the beginning, 
or is left to be made by the ruler .-* Lastly, if the good 
man as such has a claim to authority, two good men are 
still better than one. The opponents of monarchy do not 
deny that in many cases a personal decision is necessary. 
They only desire that this decision may be shared by 
many instead of being restricted to a single person. Why 
should two eyes and two ears, two hands and two feet, 
perceive and do more than many persons possessed of 
many organs and many limbs ? 

4. It is difficult to pass by this chain of arguments 
without a word of criticism. It applies, not only to 
monarchy, but to every strong executive, even in a re- 
public. The idea of executive power failed to attain 
sufficient sharpness and distinctness in our philosopher's 
mind, probably because the division of powers in the 
Greek commonwealths was very imperfect. He altogether 
overlooks the tremendous advantages of unity and con- 
tinuity of will. It makes in reality the very greatest 
difference whether the many helpers are nominated and 
directed by the head of the Government or whether they 
enjoy collateral authority. It is the difference between 
the strict administration of French prefects or Prussian 
presidents and the loose fabric of the modern Chinese or 
the ancient Persian empires with their half independent 
viceroys and satraps. If two good men are better than 
one, even in political matters, why should not the former 
dual government of Japan by Mikado and Shogun be an 
accepted model .'' And yet such dual government has 
always been noted by history as an exception. In the 


case of Sparta, with its highly limited monarchy, it was, 
perhaps, of little moment, though Aristotle himself cen- 
sured it indirectly ; and it was only in Rome and Carthage 
that it failed to produce the most disastrous consequences. 

5. Following upon this long series of attacks upon 
monarchy we meet with only a slender supply of argu- 
ments in its favour. Really there is only one, an appeal 
to that exceptional case, now so familiar to us, of a single 
man whose excellences of character and intellect raise 
him high above his fellows. " The soil in which monarchy 
grows " — so runs the conclusion — " is a population willing 
to submit itself to a family marked out by its virtues for 
the control of the State." 

Here, to be sure, there occurs a notable variation. 
Instead of the one favoured and exceptional nature a 
whole " family " is spoken of. But clearly the " virtue " of 
a royal house cannot have so high claims made upon it as 
that of a single superman who ranks almost as a miracle. 
On the other hand, the persons whose claims have to 
be satisfied are not now men in general, including the 
Greeks, but only the barbarians, who are " by nature more 
inclined to serve." 

All doubt may be regarded as excluded. The author 
of the " Politics " had absolutely no idea of the revival of 
monarchy in Greece itself. We have already referred to 
that levelling of culture which was deemed hostile to 
monarchy (cf. p. 325) ; still more significant is the expres- 
sion of an expectation that "in view of the growth of 
cities and their population there will hardly be room in the 
future for any constitution but the democratic." For the 
moment, indeed, it being necessary to reckon with the 
situation created by Alexander's victories, Aristotle did 
not disdain to address to that monarch the counsel and the 
request that he would " exercise a protectorate over 
Hellenes, but rule over the barbarians as an absolute king." 
But nothing suggests that he ever contemplated more 
than a passing subordination of Greece to " barbarian " 

Had he been able to read the signs of the times, had 


he been even dimly conscious that the days of the Greek 
republics were coming to an end, and that the future 
belonged to monarchy, he could not have regarded the old 
city-states as a necessary and eternal feature of the Greek 
world. But he went on, partly drawing his political 
doctrines from Plato, partly shaping them afresh in the 
academic contest with Plato and his followers. He did 
not perceive that a fusion of East and West was in pro- 
gress, initiated by his own pupil ; and he deemed his 
fellow-countrymen to be now as ever privileged, perma- 
nently and exclusively destined and qualified by nature 
for freedom. All this has a serious lesson for us. We 
touch the bounds of Aristotle's mind, indeed we become 
filled with a wholesome mistrust of the farsightedness of 
great thinkers in general. The political foresight of 
Aristotle stands on a level with Alexis de Tocqueville's 
supposition that " equality of conditions " was the per- 
manent economic norm of North America — that land 
which a few decades later witnessed accumulations of 
wealth unprecedented in history, which became the home 
of the mammoth trust and the multi-millionaire. 


aristotle's theory of the state. 

(Political Statics.) 

1. The main, central portion of the "Politics," consisting 
of books iv.-vi. treats of what in our time has been called 
political statics and dynamics. This last subject, the 
theory of political changes, as also of the decay of constitu- 
tions and the means by which they may be preserved, 
is naturally preceded by an account of the different 
constitutions themselves, one of which, namely, monarchy, 
has already been treated. The chief thoughts in this 
description are the following. " There is not merely one 
democracy or oligarchy," but a great number of varieties 
of these fundamental forms. These differences depend on 
the varying social conditions of the populations concerned. 
Political theorists, despite the excellence of their work in 
other respects, have hitherto erred by not observing this 
connexion. They have thus always sought merely the 
best constitution in the abstract, and not that constitution 
which for a given people, under given conditions, is the 
most advantageous, or even the only one attainable. The 
absolute side of the question is not without its value — 
indeed, Aristotle himself does not forego the quest of an 
ideal state — but it ought to be supplemented by a relative 
treatment. This will be directed towards the solution of 
two closely cognate problems : what type of constitution, 
or what variety of such type, corresponds to a given state 
of society ; and, again, what particular constitutional rules 
and laws correspond to that type, or that variety ? 

The work hitherto done in this field is marked, in 


Aristotle's judgment, by three defects. The multiplicity 
of real conditions is often sacrificed to an abstract unifor- 
mity ; the question of the relatively best is constantly put 
second to that of the absolutely best ; lastly, the details 
of legislation are judged without due regard to the type 
or variety of the constitution to which they belong. 

This transition from the general and abstract to the 
particular and concrete is accompanied by a change of 
method. Dialectical jousting gives way to a more copious 
employment of historical examples and an abundance of 
practical suggestions in matters of detail. We have 
already referred to De Tocqueville. The change just 
described is like that which appears when we compare the 
later, matter-crammed work of this master-hand, " L' Ancien 
Regime," with the ofttimes thin-spun deductions of his 
" Democratie en Amerique," or at least of its second 
section. We may conjecture that a considerable interval 
elapsed between the composition, or the delivery, of the 
" first investigation," to which book iv. looks back, and this 
continuation of it. 

2. Emphatic stress is laid on the economic basis of the 
different forms of State. Mere numerical proportions have 
only a secondary importance. Suppose a city has thirteen 
hundred citizens, of whom a thousand are rich, and three 
hundred poor. The rule of the thousand would not then 
be democracy, nor that of the three hundred oligarchy. 
No doubt differences of descent, of education, of capacity 
must be taken into account as well as differences in wealth, 
According to the predominance of one or more of these 
elements qualitative differences show themselves in the 
constitutional forms. What makes a democracy is the 
sovereignty of free men without property constituting 
a majority ; oligarchy is the rule of nobles and wealthy 
men who form a minority. The process of further 
differentiation is illustrated by a zoological example. 
The number and character of the possible animal forms 
might be determined almost a priori by reviewing 
successively all the conceivable combinations of organs 
having this or that quality (such and such a mouth 


combined with such and such an abdomen, and so on). 
Similarly, we may group those elements which are now 
called social in whatever manner we choose, and thence 
deduce a vast number of varieties. Poverty and wealth 
must always be the chief pivots of the differentiation ; 
according to the relative power of these two elements, the 
first of which is in practice generally represented by a 
majority and the second by a minority of the citizens, 
we have a democracy or an oligarchy. The sub- varieties 
of these two main types, however, are based on the social 
distinctions already treated of. In a democracy, the special 
type depends on whether the Demos consists of peasants, 
of artizans, of tradesmen, of sailors, or of day-labourers ; 
while oligarchies differ according as acquired or inherited 
wealth, nobility of birth, education, or capacity takes the 
foremost rank, 

3. A particularly fine saying points to the distinction 
between the mere constitutional form and the spirit in 
which it is worked. Aristotle was perhaps the first to 
call attention to the significant and often overlooked 
truth that factors which have been suppressed or 
vitally weakened by political revolutions may yet long 
retain a firm footing in " education and custom," that 
characters do not alter with the same speed as laws. A 
political right is one thing, the moral or social power 
of a class is quite another. In Athens the social influence 
of the nobility survived its political privileges — we may 
call to mind Nicias or Alcibiades — ^and the case is similar 
in modern England, where a constitution that becomes 
more and more democratic proves eminently reconcilable 
with the regard for the aristocracy which is rooted in the 
national character. At the present time even radical 
parties have for their leaders chiefly scions of the old 
families, and the Lower House itself contains but a very 
slight infusion of the proletariate. 

A superficial consideration of democracy, Aristotle 
goes on, not seldom leads to serious error. The equal 
share of all in the government may seem to be the full 
realization of the principle of equality. But since the 


great mass constitutes the majority, and the decision of 
the majority controls the State, this rule of the equality 
becomes really the rule of the Demos. As stages in the 
advance towards democracy we have, first, the enforcement 
of a property qualification, low in amount, then the inclu- 
sion in the governing body of citizens with an unblemished 
character. After this, all the citizens alike share in the 
government, but subject to the law ; lastly, the multitude 
rules and no longer the law, the place of which is taken by 
decrees or resolutions of the people. The Demos thus 
becomes a " many-headed sole ruler." As with a monarch, 
so with the Demos flatterers, now called demagogues, 
stand in high honour. They induce the people to decide 
everything in the assembly, and they themselves control 
the decisions. Such a democracy might be denied the 
name of constitution altogether, for a constitution can 
never be wholly void of law. Indeed, we may go farther. 
By ceasing to be constitutional, such a state of things 
ceases even to be a democracy, seeing that democracy is 
always reckoned among the constitutions. 

To a somewhat cursory reader of the " Politics " it may 
perhaps seem a confusion of ideas, if not a mere arbitrary 
assumption, when the author identifies universal partici- 
pation in the government with despotic quality of the 
government and the negation of the sovereignty of law. 
One might be inclined to imagine that he confused the 
unlimited power of the people with the unlimited exercise 
of that power. His true opinion, however, appears from 
the considerations which he devotes to the different 
varieties of democracy. He manifests a decided preference 
in treating of that variety in which an agricultural and 
moderately well-off population holds the helm. Such a 
population does not lack a sufificient livelihood, but it does 
lack the leisure which alone makes possible a large share 
in the direct work of government. Here, therefore, the 
people allow the law to rule, and limit themselves to the 
indispensable number of assemblies. The case is similar 
in other varieties of democracy, till at last the growth of 
states and the great increase of their revenues bring about 


a change. Government now for the first time falls into 
the hands of the mass, whose participation is rendered 
possible by the fact that the unpropertied now receive 
pay and gain the leisure they would otherwise lack. 
Indeed, the multitude has in this case the most leisure 
of all. Their leisure, unlike that of the rich, is not 
encroached upon by care for their private concerns. Thus 
only those who have no property are entirely without 
hindrance in attending the popular assembly and filling 
the office of juror. Obviously, Aristotle takes it for an 
axiomatic truth, hardly worth the trouble of justifying, 
that when the mass has arrived at the full possession and 
direct exercise of political power, it is unable to restrain 
its varying caprices or to resist the seductive arts of the 

4. In order not to be misled here, it is necessary that 
this apparently unconditional condemnation of democracy, 
and that, too, of democracy in precisely the form which 
won at Athens, should be read in the light of other and 
far more lenient judgments pronounced by the Stagirite. 
While tyranny is for him the worst of the degenerate consti- 
tutional forms, just because it is the corruption of the best 
(cf, p. 351), democracy is, for kindred reasons, "the most 
tolerable of them all," and oligarchy is allowed a middle 
station between them. Other utterances in which the 
democratic form of government is justified or approved 
have already presented themselves to our notice (cf. pp. 344 
and 353). Athens is not in our philosopher's mind when 
he charges the propertyless mass with an inclination to 
plunder those who have means (cf. p. 342). The work, 
" On the Constitution of the Athenians," has not a word 
of complaint on the score of the undue burdening or the 
spoliation of the rich. The author of the " Politics," too, 
is entirely at one with Demosthenes, that champion of the 
popular party, in censuring the care of the poor at Athens 
as unsuitable and insufficient, not at all as excessive. It 
is still more worthy of note that the personal friend 
of Macedonian potentates takes occasion to praise the 
" customary lenience " of the Athenian Demos, though often 


enough it allows itself to be deceived and befooled, but 
soon wakes from its stupor and punishes its seducers. 
But when he touches on the behaviour of the Demos, after 
the conclusion of the Civil War, his eulogy of its high- 
mindedness has a ring of genuine enthusiasm. Not only, 
he remarks, was the amnesty observed with scrupulous 
fidelity and the tribe of informers kept down with a 
ruthless hand ; the people went far beyond the obligations 
assumed under the treaty of peace by taking up the debt 
incurred by the defeated oligarchic faction in Sparta, and 
paying it off with the greatest speed possible. Thus, 
dissatisfied as he was with the rule of the demagogues, 
Aristotle by no means failed to recognize the incorruptible 
heart of goodness in the noble people among whom he 
worked. What he really has to charge it with is its 
disposition to take sudden leaps, and that political short- 
sightedness which so often sacrificed future welfare to the 
interests of the hour. Besides this lack of stability and 
foresight, the rough tone which tanners and lampmakers 
(a Cleon or an Hyperbolus) had established upon the 
orators' tribune repelled the dignified man of the world. 
Little, then, as the Athenian democracy corresponded to 
his ideal, he was not altogether out of humour with it ; 
and the vehemence of his invective did not exclude warm 
affection for the people against whom his censure was 

5. Oligarchy, like democracy, runs through several 
stages, until it passes into a government by dynasts 
which no longer aims at the general welfare, but pursues 
the interests of the rulers with arbitrary lawlessness. The 
Stages of this process are distinguished as, first, the 
establishment of a property qualification which opens State 
offices to every person of means while excluding all the 
poor ; secondly, a high property qualification combined 
with co-optation ; lastly, the hereditary transmission of 
office. The first of these phases corresponds to a fairly 
even distribution of wealth ; in the second, the number of 
qualified persons shrinks ; a continuation of the process is 
still for a while compatible with the reign of law ; at last 


a stage is reached which may be regarded as the precise 
opposite of extreme democracy. 

What Aristotle calls " polity," or the truly constitutional 
state, is only sketched in shadowy outline. It is repre- 
sented as a mixed form, a combination of democracy and 
oligarchy. Such a mixture may be effected in various 
ways, — for example, the oligarchic principle of election 
may replace the democratic method of casting lots for office, 
while democracy contributes the principle of dispensing 
with property qualifications. Aristotle's love of system has 
here produced remarkable fruit ; for this hybrid is at the 
same time presented to us as that " right " constitutional 
type of which democracy is the corruption or degeneration 
— observe how a mere mongrel type has been raised to the 
rank of an independent species. Plato had been content 
to recognize three types of constitution, and to distinguish 
between the good, or lawful, and the bad, or lawless, 
manipulation of each (cf. Vol. IIL, p. 183). Aristotle goes 
further : the forms of state which to him appear failures 
must in every case be regarded as the deteriorations or 
corruptions of commendable types. In the relation of 
tyranny to monarchy and of oligarchy to aristocracy, this 
idea received adequate support. But when the turn came 
to democracy it failed, and could only be saved by the 
assignment to the mixed form called " polity " of a higher 
significance than was its due. The third in the company of 
constitutional failures, namely, tyranny, is described as the 
government, resting on force, of a sole ruler, not directed 
to the welfare of the governed. 

6. The best constitution — that is, the best in a practical 
sense, not a " dream-state," not an ideal which could only 
be realized by an extraordinary accident or a radical 
transformation of existing conditions — is declared to be 
the rule of the middle class. This reminds us of the 
ethical theory of the mean ; and there is, in truth, an 
intimate connexion, which Aristotle himself recognizes. If 
the middle mode of life is the best, it follows that a medium 
endowment with the good things of fortune must also be 
the most desirable. The chief reason is that in such a 


situation obedience to reason is easier than in any other. 
Both superfluity, whether in beauty, in wealth, or in nobility 
of birth, and also the direct opposites of these, destitution, 
the lowest depths of ignominy and weakness, are alike 
difficult to enlist in the service of reason. The first 
extreme engenders lawlessness and crime on the grand 
scale, the second rascality and petty wrong-doing. But 
here we have the two main sources of all evil. 

It is further explained how the first-named class are 
unable to obey — they show this incapacity even as children 
at school — while the second class go too far in submissive- 
ness. The two together do not unite into a political whole ; 
they form a combination of slaves and masters, the first 
filled with envy, the second with contempt. The middle 
class ought to be stronger than the two extremes together, 
if possible, in any case it ought to be stronger than either 
alone. It thus becomes, and chiefly so in a state of con- 
siderable extent, a guarantee against insurrection and 
revolution. Tyranny, indeed, springs as often from extreme 
democracy as from unmixed oligarchy. Besides, the best 
legislators have been produced by the middle class. 

7. This discussion opens up the question as to the 
relation of political forms to social conditions. In its most 
general expression, the solution is as follows : that element 
which has an interest in preserving the form of the State 
must in every case be stronger than the element of which 
the reverse is true. The application of this rule requires a 
twofold examination of any particular case. There are in 
every state qualitative as well as quantitative factors. Such 
are freedom, wealth, education, nobility ; the quantitative 
factor is arrived at by counting heads. Now, it may happen 
that quality is to be found on one side, quantity on the 
other. This is illustrated by an example. The noble or 
the rich may be surpassed in numbers by the plebeian or 
the poor, yet not in so high a degree as they themselves 
enjoy a preponderance in respect of quality. Where the 
numerical advantage of the propertyless is not compensated 
by the qualitative superiority of their rivals, there is the 
place for democracy, and for one or another variety of it 


according to the predominance of each particular kind of 
Demos. Thus in one case, where tillers of the soil pre- 
dominate, we shall have the first, most moderate form of 
democracy (cf. p. 361) ; the last or extreme form will 
correspond to the predominance of mechanics and day- 
labourers. The case is similar with the intermediate forms. 
On the other hand, when the qualitative superiority of the 
propertied and socially higher class is greater than their 
quantitative inferiority, then oligarchy will come to its 
rights, and each particular variety of this type according to 
considerations similar to those already adduced. 

The reconciliation of opposing factors, that main task 
of a legislator aiming at a middle line, is sometimes assisted 
by artifices which, without infringing on the equality of 
political rights, afiect their practical exercise either by 
facilitating or by impeding it. Those who lack property 
may be induced to take part in the public assembly by the 
payment of fees, the propertied, but these alone, by the 
threat of punishment (compare what is said in Vol. III. pp. 
243, 244, on compulsory voting in Plato). If the equilibrium 
of the two main factors is not hereby secured, one possi- 
bility — and this is what Aristotle himself recommends — is 
to limit the payment of fees to that part of the lower class 
which does not exceed the wealthy class in numbers ; 
another expedient would be to eliminate the excess by 
casting lots. 

In this connexion there occurs also a passing reference 
to the possibility of popular representation. The idea is 
suggested by the awkwardness and unwieldiness of mass- 
meetings. The popular assembly is here replaced by a 
body whose members are chosen, either by vote or by lot, 
from the several divisions of the people. 

8. Other modes of reconciliation, partly historical, partly 
new-invented, are adapted to tempered forms of government. 
One of these, penally enforced attendance at the popular 
assembly, has already been mentioned. This compulsion 
pursued a threefold purpose. It was intended to promote 
the balance of power ; it was intended to retain in the service 
of the State that wisdom and expert knowledge which the 


aloofness of the upper class threatened to withdraw from it ; 
above all, it was intended to prevent the members of this 
class from sullenly turning their backs on the State, 
becoming estranged from it in their minds, and so more 
inclined for violent revolutions. (A part of these dangers 
may now, or might till recently, have been discerned in 
North America.) The same tendency towards compromise 
produces a variety of suggestions applicable to oligarchic 
States, The "preparatory authority" may well associate 
with itself a certain number of additional members, taken 
from and chosen by the Demos, or again, the decisions of 
the " preliminary advisers " or "guardians of the laws " may 
be reserved for confirmation by the people. The aim is 
here to avoid alienating the masses (as in the former 
instances the upper class) from the State. But in order 
that the power of the masses may not assume dangerous 
proportions, Aristotle puts forward for consideration a 
number of precautionary measures. The people should be 
entitled either simply to confirm the " preliminary resolu- 
tion " or at all events not to enact what is absolutely 
contrary to it. Again, the voting on a measure may be 
open to all, but the discussion confined to the magistrates. 
Lastly, the people may be empowered to reject a "prelimi- 
nary resolution," but not to substitute another in its place, 
being required, in such cases, to refer the matter back to 
the authorities. Applied to modern circumstances, this 
last proposal, one that well deserves consideration, would 
take the following form : Parliament may not impair the 
unity of a law by amendments ; it must be in a position to 
safeguard the general interest in the most effective possible 
way, but not to substitute its own ignorance and impetuosity 
for the expert knowledge and careful consideration of the 

9. We have already entered upon the di.scussion of the 
division of powers. The ideas which are so familiar to us, 
imperfectly realized as they were in the public life of 
Greece, could not be developed without an effort. This 
remark has the least applicability to the "judicial," a little 
more to the legislative (here called the "deliberative"), 

3^8 GREEK rrrixKERS. 

and most of all to the " ordering " or executive power. 
Under this head offices of all kinds are named, including 
the ofiFice of a priest or of a choregus, till at last there is 
a dawning perception that the "ordering" authorities are 
" authorities " in a stricter sense than the others. The 
distinction, however, still remains imperfect, because the 
supreme deliberative body is invested with the right of 
decision in certain cases — -for example, in questions of war 
and peace or the conclusion of treaties — which in modern 
States (the North American Union excepted) are reserved 
to the executive. Other matters, too, are dealt with by 
the deliberative body which now almost without exception 
fall within the competence of the law courts — we may 
instance the death-penalty, banishment, and confiscation of 
property. If, further, the selection of high officials and the 
holding them to account on retirement are assigned to the 
assemblies corresponding to our Parliaments, there is no 
lack of analogies, at any rate in the Republican States of the 
present day. 

Besides the abundant illustrations of the possible ways 
in which the three powers may be modified, we notice 
once more the relativity of the standpoint ; the author 
inquires which of the different modifications harmonize 
with, or are advantageous to, the different forms of State. 
The most important points relating to the legislative 
power in this connexion have already been dealt with. In 
regard to the executive, the mode of nominating officials 
comes under consideration ; it is asked whether they are 
to be chosen by vote or by lot, whether the right of election 
— active or passive — and that of eligibility by lot are to be 
universal or limited. It is possible, again, that one part 
of the offices should be filled by election, another by lot. 
The unit recognized in the elections, or lot-drawing, may 
be either the whole body of citizens or a smaller combi- 
nation, such as a tribe or township (Deme). Yet again, 
a limited active may be combined with an unlimited passive 
right of election, as well as with either a limited or un- 
limited participation in the lot-drawings. The absence 
of all such limitations is democratic, and so is the mixture 


of the two systems. The double limitation of the right of 
election, and the single limitation of the right to share in 
the lot-drawings, are peculiar to oligarchy. Lastly, similar 
distinctions are drawn in respect of appointments to 
judicial work. 

VOL. IV. 2 B 



aristotle's theory of the state. 

(Political Dynamics.) 

I. The dynamic treatment of politics is as it were 
embedded in the static. The two are united by a practical 
point of view. In order to ensure the continuance of 
a state of things it is necessary to search out the dangers 
by which it is threatened. Aristotle addresses himself 
to this task. Having gained the requisite knowledge, 
he goes back to the starting-point of his investigations, 
and now at last is able the more accurately to set forth 
the measures which can arrest the decay or destruction, 
first of the main types of constitution, then of the sub- 
ordinate varieties. This is the bond, one often misunder- 
stood, which connects book vi. with book v. and both 
with book iv. 

He begins by enumerating the "sources of sedition," 
among which misunderstood equality (cf. pp. 341, 342) takes 
the first place in oligarchy no less than in democracy. 
The attack may take a threefold direction : it may be 
aimed at the form of the constitution or at the persons in 
power, or it may seek to modify the political system 
in operation by exaggerating or softening its characteristic 
features. Special cases arise when it is desired to change 
a part of the constitution, for example, to raise or lower 
the status of a particular authority. The troubles that 
arise within a democracy are not so bad as those to 
which an oligarchy is subject ; for here the battle with 
the enemy (the Demos), is apt to be complicated with 
internal faction. 


Among the more general causes of civil broils two 
are placed in special prominence. The first is the unequal 
development of the constituent elements in the community. 
This latter is compared — a truly Aristotelian exaggeration 
— with an organism which remains two spans high, while 
one foot alone attains a length of four ells. Equally 
dangerous is " heterogeneity," the building up of the State 
from elements not sufficiently akin. A fine image is used 
by way of illustration. In war the crossing of irrigation- 
channels, however small they may be, disturbs the 
coherence of the lines ; similarly the unity of the citizens 
is impaired by every sundering distinction. Differences 
of character and occupation are mentioned here as well 
as defects in national homogeneity. Those who live in 
our large modern States cannot fail to be struck, and indeed 
amused, by the emphasis which, in this connexion, 
Aristotle lays on the difference between Athens and its 
port-suburb, the Piraeus. He holds to this point of view 
so exclusively here that he seems to forget his own polemic 
against Plato, whom he had accused of excessively '" unify- 
ing" the State, and so reducing it to the level of an individual 
(cf. Vol. III. p. 118). For the moment, too, he loses sight 
of the historical fact that in many instances the successful 
foundation of colonies was due to the co-operation of 
several cities and nationalities, and their prosperous 
development to the union of Greeks and barbarians. It 
may almost be said that he counts upon his readers being 
able to remedy his occasional onesidednesses. 

The enumeration of grounds and occasions which lead 
to political strife is preceded by a weighty saying : " Civil 
conflicts arise, not for small objects, but from small 
occasions." Having made this reservation, however, he 
enters upon an extraordinarily copious account of these 
small occasions — fear of punishment, personal rivalry, 
contempt provoked by maladministration, election in- 
trigues, deeds of violence, and even including love troubles, 
contested inheritances, rejected offers of marriage, and 
family quarrels of all kinds. The amplitude with which 
special instances are described, the manifest joy in anecdote, 


call to mind perhaps more than any other part of the 
" Politics," the rich colouring which distinguishes the 
" Constitution of the Athenians." 

But while in general it is the excessive power of one 
social factor that threatens civic peace, at times the exact 
opposite occurs. Conflicts may be delayed till the two 
parties are nearly in equilibrium, since the obvious 
superiority of the one side renders an attack much too 
hazardous in the eyes of the other. Such, moreover, is 
the situation of those who necessarily feel "equality" as 
most oppressive, and who are the readiest to raise special 
claims, that is, those who are superior to the rest in 
personal character. " They are a very small company 
in comparison with the whole." 

2. The theme, hitherto treated generally, is now 
expounded in detail. Demagogy, the chief factor in 
revolutionary movements within democracy, is de.scribed 
in its varying forms. Often originally identical with the 
military commander, the demagogue in past times frequently 
pushed his way upwards till he became tyrant. Now 
rhetoric is his most effective weapon. The remedy 
proposed for demagogy is the suVjstitution of voting by 
di.stricts for collective voting, a means, we may add, which 
would free the smaller interests, in particular the agri- 
cultural, from the domination of the city moh) assemVjled 
in the market-place. 

Demagogy occurs also under oligarchic government, 
particularly where the passive right of election is narrowly 
limited but the active right common to all citizens cajiable 
of bearing arms or tv all without restriction. Merc the 
oligarchs have ground and occasion to flatter the people. 
On the other hand, oppression of the masses is a frequent 
cause of revolution in this form of government, but equally 
so is the progressive narrowing of the oligarchy, which 
increases the number of disajntented outsiders. These not 
seldom call in the help of the peojjje, with a result which 
often goes far beyond their intentions. A united oligarchy 
cannot easily be destroyed from within. liut if individual 
oligarchs are ruined by extravagant living they may seek 

to m.ike thcmse'.vcs or others txTants. or they m.^y l.^v*.^,-"; on public property, .vnd in either way they may 
ino!ireot'.\- tan ^edition. Further causes ol" revolution or 
r.suro.uion are the emplo\-:nent oi" mercenaries in war or 
the .ippointment of arbitr.itors to judge between parties in -two consequences of mistrust felt by the olic^archs 
'or the people or by e.ich for the other. To these .md 
many other causes of an and personal nature 
such .is the resentment aroused by insults or unjust judi^- 
;nents, there is added a type of what may be almost called 
.iutomatic revolution. The form of the constitution may 
Tcmain inviolate while its substance underg-oes a change. 
Thus with the growth of national we.vlth and the general 
rise of values ,.vca,<ioned b\- a long peace it may happen 
that the property qualitication fixed by law may lose it's 
exclusiveness and admit to political privileges a far wider 
circle of the public than in. former times. 

This is the place to niention a means by which, as 
.\r;stotle suggests, tiot oligarchies alone may guard .igainst 
the automatic lowering of the propertN^-qualincation m the 
r.i.umer described above. He recommends that the tax- 
reg'.ster sb.ouU". be ex.r.nined at regular interv.ds. in order 
tluit the property--.:i:al;ncation may be revised accordingly, 
vioubled. for example, if the amount of taxable capital is 
:our.d to b.a\e been do'ubled. The qualifying amount thus 
forms a const.vnt fraction of the whole taxable capital, and 
is protected ag.vinst a rise ;n the value of commodities, or cor.ies to the sa.::ie th^r.g, a fall m tix- value of monew 
Trotection is equad\- aiiorded against the opposite danger. 
Th.ere is one obvious ob;ecfio:i to this plan. Nothir.g 
could be more ur.des;rable ;r. Ar-.stotle's view than a 
v'.un^nutu^n :v. the number of those entitled to political 
pr;vdeges. But this nrght easdy be the res\dt .'■ h;s 
pto;\\<ed adj'usf.ner.t of the propeity-qualitication to the 
:-,se or tall of the tot.vl assessinePit were carried out without 
ut^a. d to tb.e d,.stnbutior. of the a.sse.ssed propert>" The 
c:u;-.;ges vxvurring withn a per.Ovl -.night inchule a great 
cop.ce:Uration of wealth. .<o tliat. for example, a n.u.r.iber of 
tenfold ut.llionaires nvqh; be vund to have tuxen the place 


each of a hundred men worth a hundred thousand drachmae. 
Thus in order to keep the level of the property-qualification 
in harmony with changing social conditions, it would be 
necessary, we think, to take into consideration not merely 
the sum-total, from time to time, of the national wealth, 
but also the manner of its distribution. 

We return for the present to the study in political 
dynamics. The chief cause of dissolution in the case of 
" polities " and aristocracies is the violation of their constitu- 
tional basis. Such'in a " polity " is the principle by which the 
power of the people is blended with that of the upper class ; 
in an aristocracy the combination of these elements with 
that of personal capacity. There are two directions which 
a change of constitution may take : firstly, the tendencies 
already present in the constitution may be followed still 
further ; but another possibility is a revulsion towards the 
opposite type. Account is taken not only of developments 
accelerated by force, but also of changes which take place 
gradually and imperceptibly. As soon as any one part of 
the constitution is abandoned the way is opened for the 
abolition of another more important part, and so for the 
destruction of the whole. Along with tranformations 
operated from within, those also are considered which arc 
effected by external influences. Such influences proceed, 
sometimes from a neighbouring State, sometimes from one 
situated at some distance but possessing superior power. 
The chief example of this is furnished by the Peloponnesian 
War, in the course of which Athens everywhere overthrew 
the oligarchies and Sparta the democracies. 

3. From now onwards the static point of view gains the 
upper hand. Nothing is to be more guarded against in 
well-ordered constitutions than illegalities, small ones not 
least of all. For the evil creeps in unperceived, just as in 
a household small excesses of expenditure, by accumulating, 
eat up the family means without attracting notice. In both 
cases the judgment is overpowered by the same fallacy : if 
the individual item is small, so is the total. Many a 
constitution is indebted for its permanent subsistence less 
to its own intrinsic goodness than to the skill which the 


heads of the State show in dealing both with those outside 
the privileged pale and with their fellows in authority. 
They treat the first class considerately, avoiding so far as 
possible everything which wounds their feelings or subjects 
them to loss ; indeed, they admit the most capable of 
them to a share in the government. With all the possessors 
of full citizenship they consort on terms of democratic 

It is also advisable for oligarchies and aristocracies to 
borrow particular institutions from democracy ; for example, 
short-termed, even half-yearly tenure of office, in order that 
all may have their turn, and that those dangers may be 
avoided which arise from a long continuance in office of the 
highest authorities. There is yet another point of view. 
Sometimes it is not the remoteness but the nearness of 
dangers which guards the constitution. For the effect of a 
threat is that men busy themselves all the more anxiously 
with the defence of the thing threatened. It is therefore 
profitable to instil such fears into the minds of the citizens ; 
they will then rally round the constitution and keep watch 
over it day and night, suffering no more intermission of this 
vigilance than they would in the case of sentry duty. 
Another step to be recommended is the setting of legal 
limits to quarrels within the governing classes. No one 
man should be allowed to rise too high, and, above all, too 
quickly ; should this, however, happen, the too rapid fall of 
such a man is a thing to be guarded against. If purely 
[personal affairs are not to open the way to undertakings 
which imperil the State, strict supervision must be main- 
tained over private life, especially within the governing 

4. Once more we encounter the specifically Aristotelian 
endeavour to reconcile opposites and pare away extremes. 
It is possible, he says, to combine, in a certain measure, 
aristocracy with democracy. For this purpose it is necessary, 
before everything else, to provide against the officials 
becoming unduly rich. For in that case the mass does not 
feel too keenly its exclusion from positions of authority ; 
indeed, men are rather pleased to be able to go about their 


private business undisturbed, so long as suspicions of the 
kind here suggested are not aroused. But when that kind 
of suspicion does gain ground, the resentment thereby 
caused is twofold : men miss the honour, as well as the 
profit, of office. In the opposite case, access to office may 
be granted to the masses without their making any actual 
use of the concession. But those who are well-to-do, 
having no need of these illicit gains, will be ready and 
willing to hold office rather than be governed by the 
first comer. 

In democracy it is important to spare the rich : not 
their capital only, but also their income. Indeed, one may 
go further, and even prohibit their undertaking costly but 
useless services to the public such as the maintenance of 
choruses, or the organizing of torch-races, and so on. In 
an oligarchy, on the other hand, it is necessary to take 
much thought for the poor ; the more lucrative offices may 
be reserved for them ; the right of testamentary disposition 
may be limited in order that property may remain in 
families ; there may be a prohibition against one man 
inheriting from several. The same equalizing purpose is 
served by the counsel to allow to the factor which is the 
less favoured by the constitution — to the well-off in 
democracies, to the unpropertied in oligarchies — the greater 
share in those offices which are not the actual seat of the 
sovereign power. 

For the judicious filling of these last-named offices 
three requisites are named : loyalty to the constitution ; the 
greatest possible degree of specific capability ; lastly, virtue 
and justice. Which of these qualities is to govern the 
choice when all three are not to be had together .-• This 
difficulty, it is said, must be settled by considering which of 
them is met with the more commonly and which the more 
rarely. In appointing a general, for instance, more depends 
on the rare talent for military command than on the 
commoner qualities of virtue and loyalty to the constitution. 
But in the case of an office coming under the head of police 
or finance a higher than the average degree of integrity 
is demanded, while the requisite technical knowledge is 


"common to all " (!). But virtue and strength of character 
are necessary for the reason that the possession of know- 
ledge and love of the constitution are as insufficient in 
politics as knowledge and self-love alone are for the conduct 
of private life. 

Aristotle returns once more to his leading point of view, 
the maintenance of the correct medium. It is possible, 
especially where a constitution in itself deviates from the 
true mean, that the exaggeration of its special features 
may produce a progressive deterioration which in the end 
leaves it no constitution at all (cf. p. 361). A more 
important point than any yet mentioned, one, too, on which 
hitherto no thought has been bestowed, is ediicatio)i in the 
spirit of the constitutioi. He who is so educated will not 
do what is desired by or pleasing to the friends of oligarchy 
or of democracy, but that which affords them the possibility 
of maintaining erect the system of government which they 
favour. But it is the opposite of this that happens. In an 
oligarchy the sons of those in power live extravagantly, 
while those of the poor acquire by labour and exertion 
both the will and the strength for revolutionary under- 
takings. On the other hand, in those democracies which 
are counted the most democratic of all, " freedom and 
equality " are interpreted as denoting merely individual 

5. The turn now comes of monarchy, the causes of its 
decay and the means for its preservation. Much of what 
has been said about republics applies to this constitution as 
well. For of the two kinds of monarchy, true kingship 
corresponds to aristocracy, while tyranny is as it were a 
compound of extreme oligarchy with democracy. In order 
to give the more point to this antithesis a statement is 
made which is unaccompanied by any corroborating historical 
example and which, perhaps, rests on mere deduction. This 
statement is to the effect that kingship was instituted for the 
protection of the higher against the lower classes, while 
tyranny — here we are on solid historical ground — was often 
intended to protect the masses against their superiors. Not 
that this was anciently the case, for then tyranny arose 


partly out of kingship through the extension of the royal 
powers, partly out of the higher offices of state, partly also 
out of oligarchy. Presently the deduction of which we 
have spoken is abandoned, and kingship is regarded as a 
bulwark against one-sided class-rule in general. 

The causes of revolution which have been named in 
connexion with other forms of government, such as the 
suffering of injustice, fear of anticipated evils, contempt, 
and the like, are so far modified, in the case of monarchy, 
that the injustice and the contempt appear as the fruits of 
arrogance, which for its part falls again under a number of 
heads such as insult, bodily maltreatment, erotic abuse, 
and so on. Historical examples are adduced in prodigal 
abundance. The fact that Philip of Macedon and his 
murder by Pausanias are mentioned in this connexion 
should give pause to those who are undiscerning enough to 
read a glorification of that monarch out of Aristotle's work. 
In the passage where ambition is mentioned among the 
motives of conspiracies, that particular kind of ambition is 
not forgotten which is solely concerned to accomplish, 
perhaps only to attempt, some deed of desperate daring. 
In this category is placed Dion of Syracuse, of whom an 
utterance is quoted implying slender hope for the success 
of his undertaking (cf. Vol. Ill, pp. 138 seqq.). 

6. There now follows a discussion in which the king 
and the tyrant are distinguished. The fall of tyranny is 
brought about from outside as soon as it is opposed by a 
hostile political form which has greater strength ; such 
enemies are democracy, aristocracy, and kingship. Ruin 
comes to tyranny from within when the members of the 
princely house quarrel with each other. Of the two chief 
causes of enmity, hatred and contempt, the first is in- 
evitable, but the destruction of the tyranny is not generally 
brought about till the second is added as well. Thus the 
founders of tyrannies have as a rule been able to keep 
them, but their successors have commonly lost their power 
after making themselves contemptible by a life of pleasure. 
It is inquired whether in such cases hatred or anger is the 
more powerful factor. Anger certainly incites to action 


with more immediate force, but its characteristic lack of 
reflexion renders it on the whole less dangerous. 

Kingship is the form of government most rarely over- 
thrown by external forces ; it is, therefore, long-lived. Its 
internal corruption occurs in one of two ways : through 
strife within the dynasty, and through the attempt to render 
the Government more despotic. But " no new kingdoms 
come into being now." For already men are too much alike, 
there is too great a lack of individuals who tower above 
their fellows to allow of that willing subordination which 
belongs to the essence of kingly rule (cf. pp. 325 and 356). 
We are astonished here by the philosopher's blindness to 
the historical transformation which was then approaching, 
nay, had actually begun. He speaks as though Hellas 
were at the close, rather than the opening, of a monarchical 
era. And he who so spoke was the tutor of Alexander, 
the friend of Antipater (cf. p. 23), and, without doubt, of 
many others among those generals of Alexander who 
divided the world among them after his death. Aristotle, 
we may say, sat at table with monarchy without knowing 
it. And let it not be answered that he was thinking only 
of Greece and not of the surrounding countries. For 
among the subjects of the Ptolemies, of the Seleucids, of 
Lysimachus, there were very many Greeks. And if no 
new monarchy arose in Greece itself, yet its permanent 
subjection to the Macedonian monarchy is a fact which in 
the spirit, if not in the letter, most decisively contradicts 
the pseudo-prophecy we have quoted. Nor will it avail to 
range the monarchies of the Diadochi under the category 
of tyranny rather than that of kingship. A monarchy like 
that of the Ptolemies, one which made continuity its aim, 
which took so serious account of custom and tradition, 
which, in consequence, lasted for so long, is wholly out of 
keeping with the picture which Aristotle gives of tyranny 
— a Government based on craft and violence, and, therefore, 
as certainly short-lived as monarchy is solid and enduring. 
But, did any doubt remain, one consideration is decisive — 
the tireless care with which Aristotle elaborates his projects 
of amelioration for the republican constitutions. How 


could such plans have come into his mind if he had as 
much as dreamed that the old order was at an end, that 
the republican forms were henceforth to clothe no weightier 
substance than paltry municipal affairs ? It is highly profit- 
able for us to dwell on such great errors of mighty intellects. 
They inspire us with a very wholesome mistrust. Who 
knows how gravely the intellects of the day, great and small 
alike, may be in error when they see more than a transitory 
phase of historical development in those institutions, such as 
universal franchise, which in recent times have been so keenly 
fought for, and, in almost all cases, so triumphantly won ? 

7. To the causes of decay are opposed the means of 
preservation. The chief means of preserving kingly rule 
is its own moderation. In the case of tyranny, two pre- 
cisely opposite paths are open. The first is the traditional 
one, which most tyrants tread. They seek to inspire their 
subjects with mistrust of each other, to hold them power- 
less, to crush their spirit. This purpose is served by for- 
bidding the assembling of men at common meals or in 
clubs, everything, in fact, which brings men together and 
facilitates co-operation, by fostering spies and informers, by 
egging on one class against another, by bleeding the people 
— a point of view from which the great architectural works of 
tyrants are somewhat one-sidedly regarded. There follows 
an apt saying, which still more forcibly reminds us of 
Caesarism and Napoleonism : " The tyrant is a fomenter 
of wars," with the object, that is, of keeping his subjects 
busy and making his leadership indispensable. Here 
Aristotle, the devotee of cool reason, treats the influence 
of imagination and the thirst for glory with the same undue 
neglect with which in the immediately preceding case he 
had treated the increase of prestige. Tyranny, like extreme 
democracy, welcomes woman-rule and the insolence of 
slaves, for these are classes from which the tyrant has no 
more serious danger to fear than the demagogue. Finally, 
the tyrant loves to consort with persons of bad character, 
with foreigners in preference to natives, while in every man 
distinguished by fearless candour and dignified bearing he 
sees a menace to and a diminution of his power. 


The nature of the second path may be inferred from 
the causes which lead to the decay of kingship. If the 
latter is ruined by modification in the direction of tyranny, 
then tyranny must be benefited by an approach towards 
true kingship — it being always understood that the ruler's 
independence of his subjects' will must remain unimpaired. 
For the tyranny which surrenders this surrenders its very 
self. With this reservation, it is profitable for the tyrant 
sometimes to act as a true king would, sometimes to 
simulate such action successfully. For this purpose it is 
particularly necessary that he should be careful about the 
finances of the State. He will not take the money which 
the people has earned by hard work and squander it on 
favourites {}iet(2rce, aliens, artists) ; he will even follow the 
example of certain tyrants and render public account of his 
revenues and expenditure. He will seek to inspire reverence 
rather than fear. He must, therefore, in no respect lay 
himself open to reproach, neither he himself, nor his 
entourage, nor, in particular, the women of his household. 
He is advised to be moderate in pleasures of all kinds, and, 
above all, to keep up an appearance of such moderation. 
For it is not the vigilant and sober man, but the drunken 
sluggard, who provokes contempt and invites attack. He 
should also make a show of piety, for thus he will create 
public confidence both in his own justice and in the con- 
tinuance of a power which is likely to receive divine pro- 
tection. But all this must be without weakness. It is 
further advisable for him to distinguish those among his 
subjects who have shown merit, in order that they may not 
expect greater honours from their free fellow-citizens than 
from him. And while reserving for himself the bestowal 
of such rewards, he should leave punishments to other 
authorities, particularly the law courts. There are two kinds 
of arrogant insolence from which the tyrant should specially 
guard himself, cruel corporal punishments, and attacks on 
sexual honour. If, after all, dishonour has been inflicted, 
it must be compensated by honours in other directions. 

The tyrant is in the best case when both the main 
classes of society believe their welfare dependent on his 


authority. If this cannot be brought about, he should 
attach the more powerful party to himself. His rule is thus 
established, and he need have no recourse to unpalatable 
measures, such as liberating the slaves, or disarming the 
citizens. Taking all in all, the tyrant is recommended to 
play the part of a protector and guardian, to avoid all 
excess, to court the upper classes by affability, and the 
masses by a policy of social beneficence. In this way 
his position becomes in a measure consolidated, and his 
personal character at the least half virtuous. Finally, 
an historical survey tests the correctness of these con- 

8. The sixth book of the " Politics," which, obviously, 
was at first intended to form the conclusion of the work, 
accordingly contains, as one might expect, not a few sum- 
marizing repetitions, which need not detain us. It is 
characterized by many a formulation, in more general 
terms, of thoughts previously expressed less comprehen- 
sively. We may instance the advice not to pursue con- 
sistency to extremes, and not always to attempt the 
realization of the whole body of characters belonging to 
a particular constitution. Or, again, "we must not give 
the name of democratic or oligarchic to that which makes 
the State more democratic or oligarchic than it would other- 
wise be, but to that which allows it to preserve its special 
form of government the more successfully." We are 
reminded of J. S. Mill's profound remark that it is no 
recommendation of a political measure to say that it follows 
from the principle of the constitution actually in force. 
The presumption is much rather in favour of institutions 
which are calculated to mitigate the disadvantages insepar- 
able from every form of state. The wise quest for con- 
stitutional mixtures which had been bequeathed by Plato 
here takes concrete form in definite proposals. Once more 
a rednctio ad absiirdmn is brought to bear upon the exclu- 
sive application either of the democratic principle of count- 
ing heads or of the oligarchic favouring of wealth (cf. pp. 
342, 346, and 348). For the first principle may lead to 
the spoliation of the rich minority, and the latter, if the 


concentration of wealth is carried to its extreme degree, 
may end in absolute tyranny. 

A way out of the difficulty is provided by the principle 
of estates or electoral divisions, which appears in two modi- 
fications. For the election of officials and judges a pro- 
cedure is recommended which accurately corresponds to 
the Prussian system of electoral classes. The class which 
consists of those who pay the highest taxes is to appoint 
the same number of direct electors as the class of the less 
highly taxed. Thus, for example, the five hundred at the 
top, whose contribution equals that of the remaining 
thousand, are to choose as many representatives as the 
latter. In respect to the resolutions of the popular assembly, 
the same principle is applied in the following manner. The 
two electoral classes are to meet separately, and no decision 
to be held valid unless both parts concur in it. In case 
they fail to agree, that vote is to carry the day which con- 
tributes the greater amount of taxes. In order to carry 
out this system, it is necessary to combine the majority 
of the one class with the minority of the other, and see 
which of the two totals so formed has the preponderance. 
Thus, if A and B are the majorities, a and b the correspond- 
ing minorities, the choice will be between A -j- /; and V> -\- a. 
A formal analogy to this is presented by the Austro- 
Hungarian delegations, which vote in common session if 
repeated interchange of messages has failed to remove a 
disagreement between them. Here, too, the issue is decided 
by the accession of numbers which the majority of one 
body gains from the minority of the other. There is, how- 
ever, one difference between the two cases. In the modern 
instance, votes are simply counted ; according to Aristotle's 
proposal they were also in a manner to be weighed. For if his 
declared object was to be obtained, if not a mere majority 
of votes but a preponderence in property or taxable capital 
was to prevail, — then, keeping to the numbers of the above 
illustration, no fewer than one hundred votes of the second 
class would be required to balance fifty of the first. But, 
difficult as it is to ascertain the true principles of equality 
and justice, it is still more difficult to carry them out in 


practice, " since it is always the weaker, not those who for 
the time being enjoy the superiority, who trouble themselves 
seriously about equality and justice." 

9. The concluding portion of the book is mainly devoted 
to static considerations on the individual varieties of the 
different constitutional types. After praising agricultural 
democracy, the picture of which reminds us chiefly of the 
primitive Swiss cantons and the States of the Union in 
old colonial times, Aristotle goes on to commend certain 
measures by which it was formerly endeavoured to per- 
petuate that healthy condition. Among these were the 
prohibition against the accumulation of landed property, 
either absolutely or (after the example of Solon) in the 
neighbourhood of urban centres, and another prohibition 
which was directed against the sale or excessive mortgaging 
of the original lots of land ; in some cases, too, political 
privileges were restricted to those possessing at least a 
certain minimum of landed property. The democracies 
which are composed of industrial and commercial elements 
stand much lower in Aristotle's estimation. Not every 
community can bear the last and extreme form of demo- 
cracy. In order to preserve itself — this is perhaps said 
with an eye on Athens — it needs quite particularly wise 
institutions and customs suited to it. From the standpoint 
of this extreme democracy, no disapproval is expressed 
of a mode of strengthening the masses by adding bastards 
and half-breeds until the number of citizens reaches the 
necessary magnitude. Clisthenes is held up as a model 
because of his endeavours to fuse all classes together, and 
to link up the old groupings of the people by new ones 
(cf Vol. II. p. 39). The same purpose is served by the 
concentration of religious interests by the reduction of 
their number, and by raising many private rituals to the 
rank of public observances. In this kind of democracy, as 
in tyranny, it is profitable to allow greater licence to women 
and slaves, and, in general, to avoid restraints on private 

Aristotle turns to the struggle against those abuses 
which most injuriously affect the permanence of extreme 


democracy. Among these are included the confiscation of 
property in favour of the State or people. The goods of 
the condemned should preferably be assigned to the gods. 
The deterrent force of the penalty would be as great as 
ever, but the motives for procuring condemnation would be 
diminished. Political trials should be as rare as possible, 
and the bringing of frivolous charges severely punished. 
As in democracies of this kind the system of allowances to 
ecclesiasts and jurors can hardly be dispensed with, economy 
should be sought by the utmost possible limitations of the 
number of popular assemblies, and by the shortest possible 
sessions of the law courts served by large juries. This last 
measure will also promote the interests of judicial adminis- 
tration, since those who take part in it will include a larger 
proportion of the well-to-do. The system now in vogue — 
at Athens, we must add — of dividing surpluses among the 
people is compared to the sieve of the Danaids. The kind 
of relief demanded by the interests of the democracy, which 
needs to be preserved from decay, and also, indirectly, by 
the interests of the rich, is permanent assistance. The 
needy man should be supplied with a small capital, varying 
according to the different sections of the population, which 
will enable him to buy a small estate, set up a business, 
or take up a farm on lease. 

10. In the first and best variety of oligarchy there 
should be a graded property-qualification, a lower for the 
less and a higher for the more important offices. The 
number of those totally excluded from power will be 
reduced to a minimum, just as in democracy it was necessary 
to attract the higher classes in the greatest possible numbers 
into the work of government. The next type of oligarchy 
must be organized in a similar spirit, though with a some- 
what tightened grasp of the oligarchic principle. Finally, 
the rule of dynasts, that form of oligarchy which contrasts 
with extreme democracy and approximates to tyranny, 
needs the greatest care of all, precisely because it is the 
worst of these varieties, just as ailing bodies or badly built 
ships must be guarded from danger more anxiously than 

VOL. I\'. 2 C 



Even in treating of the different departments in an 
army or an administration Aristotle manifests once more 
that love of reconciling opposites which has become so 
familiar to us. Although the cavalry service is naturally 
recruited chiefly from the wealthiest class, and the heavy- 
armed division from those of moderate means, while the 
great mass enlist in the fleet or the light-armed infantry, it 
is yet advisable that the sons of oligarchs should be trained 
in this last branch of the service, in order to counteract the 
preponderance of the light-armed troops in case of civil 
war. Various measures enable persons from the ranks of 
the people to be admitted to the oligarchic citizenship ; at 
Massalia, for example, this admission is granted to the 
worthiest of those below the property-qualification. On 
the other hand, in order to keep the people at a distance 
from the more important offices, these may have attached 
to them burdensome public services which are also calculated 
to disarm ill-will — costly inaugural sacrifices, and especially 
votive offerings and the erection of buildings to adorn the 
city. Other provisions are intended to diminish the un- 
popularity connected with the execution of judicial sentences 
and other duties coming under the head of police adminis- 
tration, in order that the reluctance of better-class persons 
to assume these functions may be to some extent overcome. 
This purpose is specially served by a strict division between 
the authority which pronounces and the authority which 
executes sentence, as also by short-term tenure of these 
distasteful offices and a distribution of them which prevents 
one man holding several at once. We note the contrast, 
perhaps more glaring and palpable here than anywhere 
else, between a strong and firmly-established body of 
officials, nominated and protected by the executive, and its 
exact opposite, directly dependent on the will and favour 
of the people. 




aristotle's theory of the state. 

(Criticism of Political Ideals and Ideal States.) 

I. We shall do no injustice to Aristotle's original purpose 
if we take his criticism of other thinkers' ideals immediately 
before the ideal which he himself began to construct, but 
left unfinished (cf. p. 314). Part of this criticism has been 
already anticipated (cf. Vol. III. p. 118). We have seen 
how Aristotle laid a sure finger on the weak places of 
Plato's communistic proposals with regard to property and 
the family. 

That criticism may be summed up in three words : lack 
of intensity. Lack of intensity in the love of kin, which is 
watered down by its extension over vast circles, and, what 
is almost more important (cf. Vol. III. p. 120), lack of zeal 
and care in the administration of properties which are 
owned by all and therefore by no one in particular. There 
would be a revival in a new form of the old experience 
that one is served worse by many servants than by few. 
Quarrels and unpleasantnesses, such as arise so easily among 
temporary travelling companions, would break out with 
heightened force in a life permanently lived in common. 
Perfect equality in services and enjoyments would soon be 
recognized as a chimaera. The abolition of private 
property would also choke up a source of many indescrib- 
able pleasures, not only those which legitimate self-love 
brings, but all manner of kindnesses which men constantly 
show to their friends, acquaintances, or guests. There are 
even two virtues, continence and liberality, from the 
practice of which the ground would be cut awa}\ But 


the " fair face " which the Platonic ideal shows, is due 
partly to the fact that men fix their gaze on the evils 
springing from private property and overlook the constant 
occurrence of the similar evils, quarrels, lawsuits, and so on, 
among joint possessors of property, such as partners in 
a trade. An illusion is caused here by men comparing 
the comparatively few cases of the second kind with the 
countless numbers of the first, without attending to the 
relative frequency of the situations and occasions which 
give rise to them. All persons, according to Plato, should 
give the names of Mine and Thine to the same objects. 
But the Mine is one thing in the sense of exclusive 
possession, and quite another in the sense of a fractional 
interest in a piece of common property. 

Of the " many inconveniences " which marital com- 
munism would bring in its train, a few are singled out for 
mention. In spite of all precautions, the real facts of 
relationship would often betray themselves, especially by 
the resemblance of children to their parents ; they could 
not remain wholly concealed under a system by which 
transferences of the nature of adoption would be made 
from one class to another. If, however, they did remain 
unknown, nothing would prevent the occurrence of murders, 
assaults, and love affairs between blood-relations of a kind 
which would outrage every feeling of piety. 

2. In Aristotle's criticism of the " Laws " nothing seems 
so strange to us as the astonishment he expresses at the 
size of the standing army demanded by Plato. Five 
thousand men, with camp-followers in proportion ! How 
is the State to feed so many non-workers ? It would need 
a territory as fertile and extensive as Mesopotamia. The 
second charge is that Plato proposes no means of regu- 
lating the increase of population. Without this, all levelling 
of property would remain useless. Plato's prohibition 
against dividing up the lots of land could only make the 
situation worse, at the expense of the surplus citizens. 
This negligence is contrasted with the wise care of Pheido 
the Corinthian, who provided for the maintenance of a 
constant number of citizens and a constant number of 


families, even though the original lots of land were unequal. 
The censure which falls on Plato applies equally to another 
reformer, Phaleas of Chalcedon {cf. Vol. I, p. 409), who 
combined the same levelling tendency with the same lack 
of precautions. Moreover, that all should possess equally 
is not so important as that each should possess the right 
amount. The salutary effects of equality in property are 
commonly exaggerated. The greatest crimes are not 
committed for the sake of necessaries but of superfluities- 
No one ever grasped at a throne to save himself from cold 
or hunger. Mere equality of possessions is of little profit 
for the further reason that " superior persons " imagine 
themselves entitled to something more than equality. The 
remedy is not to be found so much in levelling as in causing 
the better sort not to wish for an advantage over the rest, 
and in making it impossible for the worse sort to obtain one. 
3. A searchingly critical account is given of the reforms 
proposed by Hippodamus (cf. Vol. I. pp. 409, 410), and 
occasion is taken to raise the general problem of how far 
it is legitimate to assail the existing order by innovations. 
Primitive customs and institutions must in many respects 
be crude, imperfect, even childish. Historical examples 
are adduced bearing out this assertion. In other depart- 
ments of human practice, in medicine, gymnastics, and so 
on, the need of progressive improvements has been proved ; 
why not also in statecraft .-* Still, Aristotle recommends 
the observance of " great caution " in political innovations, 
chiefly because the advantage obtained in detail is often 
run hard by the loss sustained through the blow dealt at 
the authority of the laws. Here we come to a passage 
which holds valid for all time — golden words that might 
have been written by a Burke : " The example drawn from 
the arts is illusory. Changes in an art do not stand on the 
same footing as changes in the law. The law's power of 
procuring obedience rests wholly on the force of custom ; 
and custom is the growth of time. Thus to pass lightly 
from old laws to new is a sure means of weakening the 
inmost essence of all law whatever." Patience is therefore 
recommended in face of many abuses and mistakes on the 


part both of legislators and magistrates. If Aristotle had 
pursued this train of thought further, it might have led 
him to perceive the profound contrast that often appears 
between the direct and the indirect consequences of revolu- 
tionary innovations. The first may be calculable and 
salutary ; the second are generally incalculable, and not 
seldom disastrous. Particular advantages, outweighed by 
more general disadvantages ; universal ideals, which lose 
their applicability in the special case — these, without doubt, 
are the fatal dangers of all radicalism. Aristotle, as wc 
have seen, recognized the first of these ; Goethe had the 
second in view when he left us the memorable saying : 
" Universal notions and great conceit are ever on the way 
to work fearful harm," 

4. This examination of political ideas is followed, 
naturally enough, by a criticism of the work of those 
legislators who have either not attempted, or not per- 
manently established, constitutional reforms of their own 
devising. The second category includes Solon, the first 
Zaleucus and Charondas in Lower Italy, Dracon atAthens, 
and Phildaus of Corinth who gave laws to the Thebans, 
and whose regulations with regard to adoption were 
intended to preserve the number of lots of land unaltered. 
This somewhat summary discussion is preceded by a criti- 
cism of the constitutions which Aristotle, like Plato, regarded 
as models, namely, those of Sparta and Crete. There is 
one point in particular at which our critic finds the legisla- 
tion of Lycurgus open to censure, and that is its failure to 
extend to women the stringent discipline which it provided 
for men. He is also displeased by the way in which 
Spartan institutions favoured the unequal distribution of 
wealth. They did so by allowing freedom of testamentary 
disposition, and by placing no restrictions on the marriage 
of heiresses, or on the right of giving daughters rich dow- 
ries. These omissions were due, we think, to the weakening 
of tribal and family bonds, which was caused by the strict 
military and political unity of Sparta. Aristotle is not 
satisfied by the manner in which the problem of serfdom 
was solved. " The Helots are continually on the watch 


to turn every difficulty of the State to their own advantage.'' 
The insular position of Crete, he remarks, has greatly 
reduced that danger. Aristotle offers no positive proposals 
for the reform of this institution, nor yet for that of the 
ephorate, whose advantages and disadvantages he is content 
to set side by side. It is a bad thing that five casual citizens, 
often extremely poor and thus not seldom corruptible, 
should occupy a position of such importance, one raised 
above that even of the kings themselves. On the other 
side, "this office holds the city together." The Demos, 
which has access to it, receives as much satisfaction there- 
from as the kings do from their position of honour, and the 
higher classes from their representation in the Gerusia, or 
council of old men. It is clear that Aristotle here finds 
his ideal of the reconciliation of opposites in a measure 
realized (cf. Vol. III. p. 234). 

After a number of pronouncements on details of the 
Lacedemonian form of government, he rises at last to a 
general point of view. He expresses agreement with Plato, 
who had declared the fundamental defect of the Spartan 
constitution to be its adaptation to only one form of virtue, 
namely, that of the soldier. " For that reason they flourished 
so long as they were engaged in wars, but soon slipped 
down from the height they had reached because they had 
not learned to live at leisure." Aristotle has remarked 
elsewhere that while imagining themselves to have escaped 
all taint of the banausic, the Spartans yet did in a certain 
sense acquire that quality as a consequence of mechanical 
military drill. We need not enter into the details of Cretan 
institutions and their critical examination by Aristotle, 
which opens no new point of view. The tone of sure know- 
ledge in which Minos and the Cretan maritime supremacy 
are spoken of finds in the discoveries of recent years a 
support which it had hitherto lacked. 

With a notable want of consistency (cf. p. 326). the con- 
stitution of Carthage is placed after those of Sparta and 
Crete as a third model of political organization. It is 
praised for its great stability ; but disapproval is expressed 
of its plutocratic tendency, which leads even to the sale of 


offices. Highly admirable is said to be the manner in 
which the Demos is kept quiet by the perpetual founding 
of new colonies. This is the great remedy for constitutional 
dangers, yet one which, in great calamities, may easily 
prove ineffective. 



Aristotle's theory of the state. 

(The Philosopher's Political Ideal.) 

I. Aristotle's political ideal! "Surely," so many a 
reader may be ready to exclaim, "we are already familiar 
with that ! " Tempered, instead of absolute, forms of govern- 
ment, the rule of the middle class — such are the features 
which we have by now learnt to recognize as characteristic 
of the political institutions which he favoured. '* In his 
treatment both of ethical and political problems," it might 
be added, " we have met with no trace of that idealistic and 
youthful courage, that Titanic confidence, which enabled 
Plato to reject the whole existing order of things and 
rebuild social as well as political life on entirely new 
foundations. So bold a work of construction as that con- 
tained in the 'Republic' will not be expected of our 
philosopher by any one. Nor, indeed, are the conditions 
here present for a much less original creation, such as that 
presented to us by the ' Laws.' " 

If we are not mistaken, doubts of this nature were not 
wholly absent from Aristotle's own mind. It is a highly 
remarkable fact that, though he began, he never finished 
his sketch of the "best State." The usual assumption, that 
he lacked time, seems to us hardly tenable. The lectures 
on " Politics," at the close of which he placed the sketch 
in question, were followed by at least the course on 
"Poetry" and that on "Rhetoric." The inference seems 
unavoidable that Aristotle purposely delayed the comple- 
tion of that task. May not this postponement, which 
finally became definitive, have been occasioned by his 


consciouness of the unpromising nature of the undertaking, 
a consciousness which grew as the work progressed ? 

An attempt to rival or even outbid the master, in this 
field as well as others, was urged upon the pupil by the 
special character of his ambition ; the venture might, 
indeed, have been required of him by his entourage, much 
as every head of a school was expected to draw up a 
particular " drinking-code," or " rules for the table " (cf. 
Vol. II. p. 274). His indefatigable reflexion on social and 
political subjects might also very easily have inspired him 
with the illusion of being equally qualified for that supreme 
and comprehensive labour. But this self-deception, we are 
inclined to believe, melted away when he approached the 
heart of his task, and perceived, perhaps not without 
astonishment, that he had nothing of decisive moment left 
to say. The fierce anger which flamed up in Plato against 
tradition, the abysmal contempt with which he looked 
down upon laws actually in force and customs actually 
observed, were not shared by his disciple. The latter was 
not unprepared with suggestions for the improvement of 
inherited institutions ; but it was not given to him to press 
on towards revolutionary innovations. Lacking great 
originality, he also lacked that capacity for illusion which 
alone could have given him faith in a possible rebirth of 
the State and of society. As we have seen, his survey was 
bounded by the limits of the conditions obtaining in his 
own day, so much so that he could conceive no other future 
for the populous city-states of Greece than a continuance 
of democracy (cf. p. 356), a form of polity which only needed 
to be freed from its worst excrescences. A contemporary 
who weighed all this could hardly have cast a favourable 
horoscope for his undertaking. The " best State " of 
Aristotle was bound either to turn out a colourless medley, 
lacking all strongly marked individuality, or else to remain 
what, in fact, it did remain — a torso. 

The first glance at that part of the project which was 
actually executed bears out these impressions. We have 
already spoken of Aristotle's love of compromise (cf. pp. 349, 
350). It has left its stamp on this part of his work. One 


subject of controversy was the mode of building a city. Is 
the chess-board pattern introduced by Hippodamus (cf. Vol. 
^- P- 3S7) to be followed ; or shall the ancient irregularity 
be observed .'' The answer is : Take a mixture of both. Is 
communism in landed property or private ownership to 
prevail 1 Half one and half the other. Are there to be 
private slaves or State slaves ? The two are to exist side 
by side. Compromise has been justly called the soul of 
all practical politics ; but it is much too easy an expedient 
to solve any and every conflict of principle by a Solomon's 
judgment. The use of it as a guiding canon for the con- 
struction of an ideal State shows clearly enough that the 
thinker who thus employs it is not the right man for the 

2. The treatment of the theme begins with a lengthy 
prologue — devoted to ethical principles as applied to 
political life. The first task is to ascertain the proportion 
of the three factors : external, bodily, and spiritual goods. 
Our goal should be to obtain, not a minimum of these last, 
such as satisfies the great multitude, but a maximum. For 
everything external serves only as an instrument, and is 
therefore tied down to a definite limit, beyond which it 
ceases to be useful or even begins to be injurious. It is 
otherwise with the goods of the soul, the possession and 
active exercise of which is decisive for happiness. This 
truth is attested by the Deity, whose blessedness is founded, 
not on outward possessions, but on inner qualities. As 
with individuals, so also with combinations of them ; among 
States, too, only the best are happy. The parallelism here 
assumed brings the Stagirite face to face with a difficulty 
of some magnitude. For the individual he had maintained 
the superiority of the contemplative life. Was the State, 
therefore, to live like a philosopher .-• The champions both 
of the active and of the contemplative life are brought 
forward to defend their respective standpoints. They 
arrive, finally, at an agreement in which the contemplative 
ideal is reconciled with the active. This agreement is 
obtained by accepting each type in a weakened-down form. 
The contemplative life, in the sense of one " detached from 


everything external," is not held up as a complete ideal 
even for the individual. On the other hand, peaceful 
states, which " live for themselves," and which are sharply 
contrasted with those whose aim is conquest and robbery, 
make a near approach to the individual given up to con- 
templation. The latter is not denied a share in all " doing " ; 
for such is not necessarily directed towards the external. 
For among men of action we hold those the most active 
who guide the actions of others by their thoughts. The 
contemplative ideal which was enthroned in the " Ethics " 
suffers, as it will be observed, some curtailment, now that 
individual and State have to row in the same boat ; the 
practical ideal, however, is subjected to still greater limita- 
tion. "Practice" is taken to include the mere internal 
action and reaction of the parts, whether of a State or of an 
individual. " Otherwise " — that is, if this inward could not 
replace outward action — " God and the universe could not 
prosper, for they lack the power of acting on anything 
beyond themselves." 

3. There follows an investigation of the external con- 
ditions for the ideal State, of the raw material, as it were, 
which the legislator must have at his disposal. In the 
front rank stands the question as to the size of the territory 
and the population. We are here more astonished than 
ever at the narrow bounds which hem in the philosopher's 
survey. He cannot look beyond even quite external 
peculiarities of the ancient city-state. The citizens must 
not be so numerous that the herald, who speaks to them 
all when assembled together, would need the voice of a 
Stentor. The obvious thought does not occur to him that 
several heralds might be employed in place of one, or that 
the necessary communications might be made with the 
help of writing. And this is the same Aristotle who, in the 
province of poetry, can so easily break down the barriers of 
tradition that he boldly detaches tragedy from its mythical 
or heroic basis. Again, though elsewhere, as we have seen, 
he prefers election by districts to direct election ; he now 
considers the mutual personal acquaintance of all the citizens 
as an indispensable requisite for the election of authorities. 


The self-sufficiency (ai/rapicffa) of the State supplies the 
fundamental standard by which are to be measured both 
the number of the citizens and the extent of the land 
occupied by them. The danger for internal order which 
comes from maritime intercourse is not rated so high by 
Plato's pupil as by Plato himself in the " Laws " (cf. Vol. 
Ill, pp. 237, 238). He thinks that it may be overcome by 
limitations of personal intercourse with foreigners. Nor 
does he fear over-population as a result of sea-traffic, for 
the citizens will only be required to man the fleet, while 
the mercantile marine may be recruited from immigrants 
and serfs. Though laying emphasis on the commercial 
as well as the military advantages of a maritime situation, 
he has no intention of allowing his pattern-state to descend, 
through greed of gain, to the level of a mere market for 
foreign peoples. 

4. What is to be ordained with regard to the different 
activities of the State : the conduct of war, " deliberation 
on what is for the public good," " the decision upon justice 
and injustice " .^ Are these functions to be divided or 
combined 1 In a certain sense, both, runs the answer ; for 
they will be entrusted to the same persons, but at different 
ages. The ages will be different, because fresh vigour 
dwells with youth, mature insight with fulness of days. 
The full citizen must be a man of means, but not self-made. 
Those who belong to the class of peasants, of mechanics, or 
of traders, are stringently and decisively excluded from 
all participation in the guidance of the State. The truly 
civic classes, we are inclined to exclaim, are to forfeit all 
civic rights ! The members of the ideal State are rentiers, 
who in youth perform military service, in middle life 
hold offices of State, and in old age are invested with the 
priesthood. So much in these chapters is said on the 
cultivation of " virtue," so incessantly does the subject 
recur, that we can hardly forbear a question. How, in a 
thoroughly peaceable community of limited size, one which 
is to wage none but defensive wars, and which must on no 
account become a commercial emporium or a seat of 
extensive production — how, we ask, in a little State, so 


sunk in the placid life of contemplation, is material to be 
supplied in any abundance for the exercise of the political 
virtues ? 

Looked at closely, the master-element in Aristotle's 
ideal State is seen to consist of peace-loving Spartans or 
Cretans maintained by the labour of peasants and artisans 
held in serfage. Is it too much to say that the Stagirite 
retains an ideal based on war and conquest, while rejecting 
its aims and fundamental principles ? He finds it matter 
for censure that in the State built up by Lycurgus every- 
thing was organized with a view towards war ; and yet it is 
from this very community and others akin to it that he 
borrows his political and social ideal. One is inclined to 
call this "best State" an unwarlike Sparta, a name that 
carries sufficient condemnation with it. We may go further. 
Our reformer's immediate model was the " Republic " of 
his master. But in his class of rulers or guardians the 
latter provided the study of the sciences with a sure refuge, 
or rather, with a position of commanding eminence. Was 
Aristotle's aim directed towards anything resembling this ? 
No word of the " Politics " admits of being interpreted in 
such a sense. So far as these chapters carry us, the 
professional votaries of the sciences, no less than of the arts, 
are denied civil rights, unless they happen to belong to the 
class of landowners, the ruling caste, which does not live by 
its own labour (cf. pp. 333, 334). Among liberal callings 
none in Hellas had from of old enjoyed higher social con- 
sideration than the profession of medicine. But one asks in 
vain how even the most worthy successor of the man named 
by Aristotle " Hippocrates the Great " (cf. Vol. I. p. 282) 
could have become a full citizen of the philosopher's ideal 

5. We have exchanged exposition for criticism. Our 
justification is that we have arrived at the end of what 
is set forth on matters of principle. The remainder consists 
of all kinds of discussions and proposals, which, as they 
leave the social and political structure of the community 
untouched, have no more to do with the best State than 
with any other. In support of the institutions of his 


Utopia Aristotle makes a few historical references to the 
Egyptian caste-system and to the common meals of men, 
which he knows to have been customary in Italy as well as 
in Sparta and Crete. He now turns to the question of site. 
What is most noteworthy here is the high value placed on 
the abundance and goodness of the water-supply, and the 
recommendation to separate, when necessary, the drinking- 
water from that used for other purposes. The preference 
of open cities to fortified, in spite of the model Sparta and 
the praise given to it in the " Laws " for this feature, is 
pronounced a piece of old-fashioned simplicity, especially 
in view of the progress in ballistics. Besides, the defenders 
are always free to meet the attacking force outside the 
protection of the walls. Questions relating to generation 
and marriage, the care and education of children, now 
come to the front, and demand a chapter to themselves. 



aristotle's theory of the state. 

(Questions of Reproduction and Education.) 

" Breeding and education are the two cardinal pillars 
of society." An English contemporary, the author of a 
dialogue that may be called truly classical, has placed 
these words in the mouth of one of his characters ; and 
they may serve as a motto for this chapter. 

In what is said on the first of these subjects, maxims 
of prudence are combined with physiological assumptions 
that are very far from being borne out by modern science. 
Among the former are the following observations. The 
generative capacity of both parents should become extin- 
guished at nearly the same time ; the difference of age 
between them and their children should be neither too 
great nor too small. In the latter case, filial reverence 
may suffer ; in the former, the parents may easily fail to 
profit by the active gratitude of their children, and the 
children may not receive a full measure of support from 
their parents. The main consideration, however, is that of 
the bodily and mental excellence of the offspring. The 
experience of stock-raisers proves that the pairing of very 
young specimens tends to produce imperfect and weakly 
young, mostly of the female sex only ; this is confirmed by 
what is observed in many States where early marriages are 
the rule. Other reasons adduced are the severity of child- 
birth, the greater laxity of conduct on the part of women 
who are humoured and indulged at an early age, and the 
unfavourable influence on the growth of youthful husbands. 
The age of marriage is therefore recommended as eighteen 


years for girls, thirty-seven for men. The bodies of those 
who contract marriage should have been already strengthened 
by gymnastic exercises, but not of a violent character like 
those practised by contestants for athletic prizes. This 
applies to both sexes. Women with child are to be pro- 
tected from excitements, but they must neither be kept on 
low diet nor allowed to spend their time in slothful inaction. 
The legislator may therefore prescribe for them a daily 
visit to some sanctuary in the neighbourhood. Over- 
population and the rearing of the unfit are provided against 
by anything but gentle means. Deformed children are to 
be exposed ; all excess over the prescribed number of 
children is to be checked by abortion induced at the right 
time, that is, before the commencement of life and feeling. 
The age of procreation is also bounded by an upper limit 
since the offspring of elderly parents are apt to turn out 
badly both in body and mind. For this reason men 
beyond the middle fifties are no longer to practise marital 
intercourse with the intention of begetting and rearing new 
offspring. Extra-marital intercourse, wherever a marriage- 
bond exists which is more than a name, receives unqualified 
condemnation, and within the years assigned to procreation 
is punished by the withdrawal of certain privileges. 

2. In dealing with the care of children Aristotle 
recommends a diet rich in milk, the avoidance of wine, 
moderate bodily movements, no interference with crying, 
which he considers a kind of gymnastics, the use of 
mechanical means for securing straightness of growth, and 
early habituation to cold. The period from weaning to the 
age of five is devoted to play, which should consist chiefly 
in the imitation of the serious occupations of life. The 
preservation of children from harmful influences, including 
a too intimate contact with slaves, is made the duty of 
State-appointed overseers ; these, however, are to control 
only the home-care which children of that age require. 
With this comes the prohibition of unseemly, that is for 
the most part, indecent, words or pictures — a prohibition 
which is to be enforced by penalties graduated accordini>- 
to the offenrler's age. .\ remarkable exception is made in 
\UL, i\. 2D 


connexion with certain religious ceremonies. But this 
exception applies only to adults ; while the youth are to 
be debarred from seeing comedies performed or from 
hearing recitations of satirical verse, a kind of carnival- 
amusement then in vogue. 

The importance of early impressions is emphasized by 
a detail concerning the celebrated actor Theodorus. He 
would never suffer any one, even a rival of no pretensions 
whatever, to appear on the stage before himself. The first 
impression is overwhelming and decisive. It is thus 
imperative that the fresh receptivity of the youthful soul 
should from the very beginning be placed beyond the reach 
of all that is evil or ugly. 

3. The theme of the eighth book, instruction and the 
training of the mind, is led up to by three questions. Is 
there to be a State system of education .'' Is the system to 
be administered by the State ? What is to be the nature of 
the system .-* The first two questions are answered affirma- 
tively. Emphasis is once more laid on the necessity of 
educating the citizens in the spirit of the constitution 
(cf p. Z77)- Again, the practice of virtue, like that of every 
art, and like the exercise of every other faculty, needs 
preliminary instruction and training. Lastly, that which 
is the common concern of all must be under the manage- 
ment of the community, A right care for the well-being 
of each individual member — and every citizen is a member 
of the State, not an independent unit — must keep in mind 
the good of the whole. 

The fundamental treatment of educational questions 
begins with a reference to the differences of opinion which 
prevail in this field. One point of controversy is whether 
the training of the intellect or that of the character deserves 
precedence. Nor are men agreed whether practical utility, 
the acquisition of virtue, or lastly, the higher culture, should 
be placed in the forefront. Each of these standpoints has 
found champions. There follows a warning, such as we are 
now sufficiently familiar with (cf. pp. 333, 334), against all 
that is banausic. The process of instruction should begin 
by children aged from five to seven being present while 


others receive the teaching which they themselves are to 
receive later on. The most usual and indispensable means 
of education are next enumerated. These are the elementary 
subjects (reading, writing, arithmetic), gymnastics, music, 
and drawing (cf. Vol. I. pp. 413, 579). The last-named 
subject of instruction, we may remark in passing, is warmly 
recommended, not only for the sake of its utility, but also 
with an eye to the training of our " feeling for the beauty 
of forms." 

Aristotle accompanies his praise of gymnastic teaching 
by a number of reservations. He blames the States which 
brutalize the youth and injure their growth by too violent 
exercises. A point of great importance is that the body 
and the mind ought not to be worked hard at the same 
time. Greater demands may be made on physical strength, 
and a corresponding diet supplied, at a later age, some 
three years after puberty is attained. In this connexion 
mention is made of the interesting fact that in the Olympic 
games the same contestant rarely won prizes both as boy 
and as man. The infant prodigy, in this department as in 
others, would seem to have come as a rule to an early 

The last chapters of the book, and of the work in its 
present arrangement, are devoted to music. But as the 
author of the " Politics " does not here limit himself to the 
educational importance of music, but takes into consideration 
its influence in other directions as well, it appears advisable 
to treat his remarks on the subject in connexion with his 
general teaching on art. Already, as we shall presently 
see, he has made casual incursions into this more com- 
prehensive province. 




I. " The young should not look at the pictures of (the 
crudely realistic) Pauson, but at those of (the idealist) 
Polygnotus." This precept, in which the pedagogic in- 
fluence of the plastic arts is recognized in addition to that 
of the others, occurs in the closing section of the " Politics," 
from which we have just passed on. It shows how great 
an effect upon the formation or deformation of character 
is ascribed by our philosopher to these arts, which present 
to us, as he says, no true " copy " of objects, but " signs " 
of qualities of the soul — their corporeal clothing, as it were. 
The influence of poetry upon the growth of the soul is 
rated by Aristotle still higher. We learn this not only 
from his exclusion of one whole species of poetry, comedy, 
from contact with the youthful mind, but also, and in still 
higher measure, from his attempt to deduce the classifica- 
tion of poetry, especially the drama, not, as one would 
have expected, from distinctions between poetic gifts, but 
from differences in the characters of poets. " Those who 
incline more towards the elevated have depicted noble 
actions and the actions of noble persons ; those who lean 
more to the trivial have presented us with the doings of 
mean persons." It is thus that the authors of tragedies 
and comedies are distinguished from each other. Clearly 
the distinction must reproduce itself in their works and 
become manifest in influence exerted upon the mind of 
receptive youth. A more lasting influence is ascribed to 
dancing, which, so far as it is not mere bravura-dancing, 
" imitates characters, emotions, and actions by gesture- 
rhythm ; " but still more to music. This art presents to 


us qualities and passions of the soul, immediately embodied 
in rhythms and melodies ; and, according as we find pleasure 
in one kind or another, in courage or in gentleness, in 
anger or in love, our souls themselves grow to one or 
another character. From these peculiarities of the different 
musical modes Aristotle deduces without hesitation their 
importance for an education which is to begin early but 
last through life. 

2. The cultivation of music is, however, not to serve 
exclusively this highest end, as Aristotle conceives it. 
There are three subsidiary aims which also are to be 
pursued by its aid : incitement to immediate action, which 
is the concern of "practical music;" entertainment or 
recreation ; and, lastly, catharsis, the purging of the soul 
or the discharge of emotion. The second of these objects 
gives Aristotle occasion to relax the severity of his demands, 
and to allow some room for the lighter forms of music. 
For those who possess a " soul out of joint," so to speak, 
that is, as he expressly adds, " for a public consisting of 
banausic persons, proletarians, and such-like," a kind of 
music is to be allowed as a means of recreation which is 
little suited to the truly " free and well-educated." It is 
much as if, side by side with the elevated and solid grand 
opera, we were to allow an independent, though subordinate, 
place to the frivolous operetta, coupled with that kind of 
opera which deals in unmeaning flourishes and embellish- 

The subject of " catharsis " is treated by Aristotle first 
of all in a few pregnant sentences : " We see, in the case 
of the sacred songs (by these are meant chiefly certain 
melodies ascribed to the mythical singer Olympus), that 
while usually their effect upon the mind is a sort of intoxi- 
cation, yet when they are heard by persons in ecstasy, 
these are calmed, as though they had gone through a 
medical cure and a ' catharsis ' (that is, relief)." This 
alleviation, he adds presently, comes to them " accom- 
panied by feelings of pleasure " ; and here he includes 
those who incline to such emotions as fear and pity and 
who are acted upon, not by music, but by tragic poetry. 


This (pleasurable) discharge of fear and pity is then 
described in the definition of tragedy as nothing less than 
its main effect and supreme end. It is now hardly neces- 
sary to speak of the chaos of misunderstandings which 
has clustered round these teachings. It has been supposed 
that the process was one in which, instead of the soul 
finding relief and being purified of its passions, the passions 
themselves were cleansed and clarified. Pierre Corneille 
incorporated this error in his teaching ; Lessing strove 
with it in vain ; the intuition of Goethe gave the first blow 
to its authority ; Jakob Bernays, by his systematic in- 
vestigations, achieved its final dispatch. The "truth and 
error " of this theory, too, have been dealt with in our own 
time, with decisive finality, as we think. Two kinds of 
" catharsis " have been distinguished. One is more espe- 
cially the privilege of youth, which is prone to work off 
a surplus of energy by a bout of violent emotion ending 
in assuagement ; the other, more characteristic of advancing 
years, consists in a discharge of old, unspent, emotional 
tensions, which finds its occasion, rather than its material, 
in the contemplation of tragic events. This second kind 
of "catharsis," it may be mentioned, was anticipated by 
Plato in a memorable passage of the " Republic." The 
" sympathy " with the hero, as it is imagined to be, has 
been aptly compared with the emotional state of those 
maids of Achilles, who, according to Homer, seemed to 
be weeping for the dead Patroclus, while in reality they 
were bewailing their own sad condition. 

But is the enigma of " pleasure in the tragic " hereby 
solved ? Clearly this was Aristotle's opinion ; for he was 
emphatic in placing " catharsis " at the close of his defini- 
tion, and he altogether omitted to seek for any other cause 
of the mysterious pleasure caused by the poetic represen- 
tation of painful happenings. But the new aesthetic, rightly, 
as we think, has not followed him in this. The French- 
man Dubos (1670-1742), the Swiss Sulzer (1720-1779), 
Lessing himself most clearly of all, have expressed the 
thought that the painfulness of the tragic impression may 
be outweighed by its intensity, that by the violence of our 


feeling we become '' conscious of a higher degree of our 
reality," and that, to end with the language of a con- 
temporary, " enhancement and extension of our conscious- 
ness is in itself a kind of happiness." The correctness of 
this interpretation receives proof, if we are not mistaken, 
from those tragedies, such as Shakespeare's Cymbeline 
and Lessing's Nathan, which act upon us quite in the 
same way as powerful tragedies, though their content is 
not tragic in the usual sense of the word. 

3. But if Aristotle thus mistakes the part for the whole, 
an accessory phenomenon for the heart of the matter, the 
depth of his psychological vision still deserves our full 
admiration. Even here, however, a great surprise awaits 
us. Astonishing as it is to find "catharsis" recognized 
so early and placed in so emphatic prominence among the 
ingredients in the effect produced by art, it is hardly less 
so to find that process ignored in the field where it plays 
its most important part — that of artistic creation itself. 
Nothing is more familiar to us than the view of lyric 
poetry as a means by which the poet sets himself free ; 
Aristotle gives no hint of having had even the remotest 
perception of this. But, it may be objected, our familiarity 
with this idea is due to Goethe's self-revelations, and this 
late discovery cannot justly be demanded from the earliest 
thinker who gave any sustained attention to the philosophy 
of poetry. The objection is well-founded, but does not 
end the matter. It is not only that Aristotle knows nothing 
of any self-liberation on the poet's part ; he almost abso- 
lutely ignores that whole branch of poetry which takes its 
peculiar character from this self-liberation. It is not too 
much to say that he had no sense whatever for lyric poetry. 
This assertion has so bold a sound, the question is so 
important and so well fitted to introduce us to the inner- 
most essence of Aristotle's conception of art, that we have 
no choice but to dwell upon it for a while. 

The fact that lyric poetry finds no place among 
the divisions of poetic art may well surprise us, but is 
not necessarily of decisive importance. Verse written 
to be sung and indeed composed by the older poets 


simultaneously with the melody, might possibly have been 
accounted a part of music, and treated under that head. 
But this supposition does not remove our difficulty ; for 
Aristotle does not treat lyric poetry at all. The few excep- 
tions from this rule are quite of the kind by which a 
rule is proved. Some species of lyric poetry are indeed 
known and named by Aristotle ; but how and where } In 
the historical part of his exposition he mentions " hymns 
and songs of praise," and with them " songs of invective," 
as preliminaries and rudiments of the higher branches. 
Another and perhaps more notable exception is the class 
of poetry called " dithyrambic," half lyric and half dramatic, 
which is not passed over in the enumeration, and is also 
mentioned a few times elsewhere. In the passage which 
distributes the embellishments of language among the 
different kinds of poetry written in the higher style, the 
dithyramb is not sent quite empty away, while purely lyric 
poetry receives not a word of mention. It is only in the 
discussion of real and supposed errors of art that a linguistic 
observation is to be found which has been referred with 
probability to a line of Pindar. The same silence, finally, 
is observed in that portion of the " Rhetoric " where a 
survey is given of the different forms of ** procjemium " 
found in different species of poetry. Once more the 
dithyramb appears, and once more the works of even the 
masters of Greek lyric are entirely ignored. 

4. This silence does not stand alone. The negative fact 
is matched by positive ones of almost still greater force. 
For the author of the " Poetics " the successful reproduction 
of the objective is the beginning and end of all exercise 
of art. He places the theory of " plot-construction " almost 
in the forefront of his undertaking. But in the case of a 
satirical song by Archilochus, a love-song by Sappho, or 
a drinking-song by Anacreon, is it legitimate to speak of 
a plot at all .'' From the very beginning our philosopher's 
gaze is rivctted on the epic and the tragedy, the subjects 
of his first book ; while the second and last book was 
devoted to the other main branch of the drama, comedy. 
It is true that the task of all musical art is stated to be 


the representation, not only of actions, but also of " dis- 
positions and emotions." But this process of expression 
is far from being one of self-expression. We perceive this 
most clearly from the passage where the poetic endowment 
is spoken of and reduced to two main types. To compose 
poetry, he tells us, is the work of a nature which is either 
particularly intellectual or particularly emotional. The 
" plastic flexibility " of the first, the want of inner stead- 
fastness and the tendency to " ecstasy " on the part of the 
second, permit them to transport themselves with ease into 
the emotions which the subject of the poem requires to 
be represented. In the one case, the intellectual genius 
adapts himself easily to the emotions concerned ; in the 
other, the man of emotional temperament easily falls into 
them. But there is not the most distant allusion to self- 
representation, to the streaming out of moods and feelings 
actually present in the poet's mind. We are accustomed 
to seek the sources even of many dramatic productions, 
a " Tasso " or a " Faust," in the poet's inner experiences ; 
but this point of view is essentially foreign to the Stagirite ; 
indeed, it could hardly have been intelligible to him. For 
it reduces the dramatic to something lyrical, the pragmatic 
or objective species of poetry to a subjective form. 

The author of the " Poetics," as we have seen, had no 
true feeling for subjective poetry. But this attitude of 
depreciation was not long maintained. Even among Aris- 
totle's pupils, there were two, Chamaeleon and Dicaearchus, 
who, by devoting monographs to lyric poets, testified to 
the value which they placed on this branch of the art. 
The same course was pursued by the great art-critics both 
of the Alexandrine school and of the Gr^eco- Roman epoch. 
Dionysius of Halicarnassus, for example, carefully analyzes 
an ode of Sappho. How difi"erent from Aristotle, who cites 
the lyric poets only as witnesses to historical facts, as the 
authors of ingenious and profound sayings, at most as 
patterns in the employment of rhetorical artifices, never 
once as bearing upon the theory and rules of poetic art ! 
Lyric poetry and its masters had then won a position 
of equality with the other branches of poetry and their 


representatives. Aristotle's failure to recognize this equality 
might have been inferred beforehand from his predomi- 
nantly intellectualistic conception of art. He goes, indeed, 
so far in this that he puts in the foremost place those 
effects of art which have least to do with feeling or fancy. 
There is a cardinal passage in which he actually reduces 
the pleasure received from art to the pleasure of learning. 
" Imitations," he tells us, " are contemplated with satisfaction 
because they give occasion for learning and for reasoning 
out what each of them means ; in the case of a portrait, 
for example, that it represents such and such a person." 
And this character of the cool reasoner it maintained, not 
only in dealing with the enjoyment of art, but also in 
judging artistic production itself. It is so especially where 
he investigates the relative ranks of the different elements 
which enter into tragedy, for him the supreme form of 
poetry. The first place is here given to the " plot," or 
" construction of the events," precisely that element which 
is entirely a product of artistic reason. 

5. There are three roots from which artistic creation 
springs — the love of beauty, the craving for emotional 
liberation, the formative impulse. Of these, the second is 
ignored by our philosopher, and it is only the third, known 
to him as the imitative impulse, which he considers with 
any exhaustiveness. In regard to the conception of beauty, 
he follows the path opened up by his master, who had for 
the first time brought the elementary aesthetic feelings to 
light (cf Vol. III. p. 192 ; also Vol. II. pp. 353, 354). He 
is successful in detaching the Beautiful from its old en- 
tanglement with the Useful, less so in separating it from 
the Good in general. As elements of beauty he names 
(in the "Metaphysics") "order, symmetry, limitation," 
and again (in the " Poetics ") a middle magnitude which is 
equally removed from the diminutive and the inordinately 
large ; the " innate sense of rhythm and harmony " also 
appears here among the factors which govern the production 
and the enjoyment of art. With these rudiments of a 
philosophy of the beautiful is coupled a strong emphasis 
on the imitative impulse or mimetic element in artistic 


creation. In this last particular an ancient Greek could 
only be expected to follow the line marked for him by the 
national endowment of lucid vision and plastic talent. But 
the exclusiveness of this emphasis was certainly calculated to 
narrow the Stagirite's aesthetic horizon in a serious degree. 

Truth to nature in the imitation, beauty in the copy — 
what is the relation between these two requirements ? Not 
a few pronouncements of Aristotle teach that the second 
must invariably have the precedence. The poet should " do 
as good portrait-painters do, make the picture like, and at 
the same time embellish it." A saying of Sophocles is 
quoted with approval, in which he claimed that " he de- 
picted men as they ought to be, Euripides as they are." 
A critic had complained that Zeuxis " had painted men 
such as could never exist in reality." Aristotle replies : 
" But that is the better course, for the ideal should always 
surpass the real." Thus everywhere the preference is 
given to the higher, the more perfect, the more beautiful. 
But this demand is never justified from first principles, or 
deduced from the supreme aim of artistic creation. That 
aim remains throughout " mimesis," or imitation ; the 
demand for beauty, though made with great emphasis, as 
we have seen, was yet added as a casual after-thought — 
smuggled in, one might almost say. No one will deny 
that Aristotle's theory of art is here marred by a great 
inconsistency. And yet he was well-advised not to tor- 
ment himself with the quest for a single principle of beauty 
to serve as the starting-point of his deductions. Such an 
abstraction would have been exceedingly difficult to reach, 
and when won would have been certainly unfruitful, because 
poor in content. 

6. The time has come to speak of the uncontested and 
brilliant excellences of the " Poetics." These are chiefly to 
be sought where the strength of that intellect is generally 
to be found, in the masterly skill of the divisions, in the 
freedom, acuteness, and unerring certainty of the vision. 
To bring likes together, to set unlikes apart, even where 
external appearance, tradition, and habit make such juxta- 
position and such severance matters of the uttermost 


difficulty, — this is the task for which Aristotle has abilities 
with hardly a parallel, and in accomplishing which his 
intellect, distinguished as it is pre-eminently by the 
amplest fulness of knowledge and the supple flexibility of 
thought, reaches the height of true genius. It was thus 
reserved for him to free the concept of poetry from the 
external marks of versification, and to bring under that 
category, not only artistically composed dialogues like 
those of Plato, but also prose ^'■fcV/r^-pictures, such as were 
painted by a Sophron and a Xenarchus (cf. Vol. II. p. 265). 
No error in antiquity was more widespread and more per- 
sisted in than the confusion, or at least the mixture, of 
poetry with ethics on the one hand, and with science on 
the other. Hardly anything redounds more to our author's 
honour than the sure steadfastness with which he avoids 
all such errors of delimitation, keeps the specifically poetic 
value of a composition unwaveringly in sight, and shows 
that he has learnt to make abstraction of the moral or 
other didactic purpose served by a poem. While recogniz- 
ing the poetical character of an artistic piece of literature 
which lacks the form of verse, he excludes from this 
category versified works of didactic substance : " Homer 
and Empedocles have nothing but the metre in common." 
In sharply pointed antitheses he contrasts the ethical with 
the .-esthetic valuations. If for the first the purpose is 
everything and the execution nothing, for the second the 
reverse is the case — -in art the purpose counts for nothing, 
the execution for everything. How little inclined he was 
to allow the artist's intentions, be they never so noble and 
elevated, to be reckoned as an excuse for artistic impo- 
tence ; how poor a substitute, too, all learning and all 
knowledge seemed to him for specifically artistic endow- 
ment ; — all this may be deduced with rigorous consequences 
from one pregnant sentence of the " Poetics." A saying of 
Schopenhauer, " In art, ... as the very word indicates, 
power ^ alone is of any importance," might serve as a 
motto for the " Poetics." 

' In ihc original, k'unst and A'onneii, corresponding; utymologically lo 
'"cunninLj" nnd '' can," — Tk. 


Aristotle's eye for the essential is as well shown in the 
strictness with which he insists upon canons drawn from 
the nature of the subject-matter as in the laxity with which 
he abandons a rule so soon as its violation yields greater 
gains for poetry than its inflexible enforcement. He goes 
so far in this that he even advises the poet to sacrifice truth 
to nature, if by this means he can succeed in producing a 
more powerful effect than would otherwise be attainable. 
" An error has been committed, but it was right to err." 
Such is his manner of expressing this thought. Here we 
may pause to mention the old error which made Aristotle 
the author of the pedantic rules, so cramping to dramatic 
poets, of the three unities. In reality, he demanded only 
the unity of the action, — a demand, to be sure, which he 
made with the utmost emphasis, and which he applied 
to poetical compositions of all kinds, epic as well as 
dramatic, refusing at the same time to accept as a substi- 
tute the mere unity of the person, the hero of the poem. 
The unity of time was not recommended by him, but 
tacitly assumed, because it was the governing rule in the 
ancient drama, seldom violated, and still more seldom in 
any serious degree. It was the same with the unity of 
place, which, it may be noted, is not mentioned in the 
" Poetics " at all. 

7. The necessity and the sufficiency of strict unity in 
the action are themes to which Aristotle constantly recurs. 
The poet is advised to keep this ideal firmly before his 
eyes, not to lose himself in the accessory matter which 
cannot be dispensed with, especially in epic, not to be con- 
tent with brilliance and charm here as a substitute for 
excellence in the main point. As a protection against this 
danger, it is recommended that he should strip the central 
heart of his story free from all that is subsidiary, so as to 
bring it clearly before his mind. Preliminary practice for 
this operation is to be gained by analyzing in a similar 
manner poems already in existence ; and a few models of 
such work are offered for his guidance. The essence, for 
example, of the story of Iphigenia is given as follows : " A 
maiden was appointed to be sacrificed ; but without the 


fore-knowledge of the sacrificersshewas removed to a distant 
land, where it was the custom to sacrifice foreign new-comers 
to the goddess of the country. She there became a priestess 
of this goddess, and after long time it so happened that her 
brother came there too ; the oracular response which sent 
him, the occasion of it, and the purpose of it are irrelevant, 
Having arrived, he was seized, and would have been sacri- 
ficed, but that a recognition took place." Here, again, is 
the kernel of the voluminous " Odyssey : " "A man lived for 
long years lonely in a strange land ; meanwhile, at his 
home, other men consumed his substance and sought his 
son's life ; at last he returned, tempest-tossed ; was recog- 
nized by a few persons ; and so ventured on the attack 
which brought happiness to himself and destruction to his 

For our philosopher, the daughter of Agamemnon, the 
most powerful among the Greek princes, is thus merely a 
" maiden ; " Ulysses is not a hero and a mighty warrior 
before Troy, but simply a " man." How, then, could he 
be expected to hold with unyielding exclusiveness to the 
traditional material, derived from heroic legends and from 
history ? For even the familiar subjects, as he aptly objects, 
" are familiar to only a few, but none the less give pleasure 
to all." We are thus not surprised to find him professing 
his faith in the capacity of tragedy for a further develop- 
ment, a profession which necessarily leads our thoughts to 
the bourgeois tragedy, at that time either non-existent or 
l^nown only in isolated experiments. 

From this comparatively low estimate of the traditional, 
of what is actual fact or at least held to be true, it is but 
a step to those famous words which have so highly pleased 
our classics : " Poetry is a more philosophical and a more 
serious matter than history." The justification of the 
paradoxically sounding utterance is given by the author 
of the " Toetics " himself " The first," he continues, " busies 
itself more with the general, the second with the particular. 
It is a generality that a person of such and such a character 
necessarily or naturally does or says such and such a thing ; 
and this is what poetry aims at telling us, though it gives 


its heroes (individual) names. But what Alcibiades has 
done or suffered is particular." These important thoughts 
may perhaps be transcribed thus : The poet, who must have 
a profound knowledge of human nature, presents us with 
a single chain of causation ; he shows how external events 
affect the soul of the agent ; then, how such influence, in 
its turn becoming a cause, leads to further consequences, 
reactions, and interactions, the whole series being displayed 
to us in all its purity and independent unity. On the other 
hand, the facts of actual experience continually interrupt 
this ideal sequence ; instead of an orderly, because isolated, 
chain of causes, we ever again come upon chance, that is, 
the complication of one causal chain with several. The 
hero of a poem drains to the dregs the cup of his own 
filling ; the curse or the blessing that falls upon him answers 
strictly to his actions. In real life an apoplectic fit may 
intervene between the most momentous of actions and the 
whole train of its consequences. Tell may miss the apple ; 
Romeo may fall from the rope-ladder. Lastly, the pre- 
dilection of ancient poetry for typical characters lent to 
Aristotle's pronouncement a higher measure of truth than 
it possesses for us. Modern poetry, dealing as it often does 
with complicated characters, worked out in their indivi- 
duality, makes to that extent an approximation to the 
tangle of real life, in which law and regularity are so much 
harder to discern than in fiction. 

8. This breadth and comprehensiveness of vision, how- 
ever, does not diminish the loving care bestowed on detail. 
The " Poetics " is full of what maybe called studio-wisdom, 
of important technical hints and observations springing 
from a range of experience which arouses our admiration. 
The author may well have received here the expert assist- 
ance of a professed poet, probably the rhetorician and 
tragedian Theodectes of Phaselis, a disciple who was highly 
honoured by his master and who died early. These very 
interesting details will be the more easily found by the 
reader in the book itself, the more accurately we make him 
acquainted with its structure and divisions. 

.The little work opens with the separation of poetry 


from the group of musical arts to which it is most closely 
related. Then comes the division of the poetic art into its 
sub-varieties. After this follows the genetic consideration 
of these species, or at least of those recognized by Aristotle. 
By this means the way is imperceptibly prepared for the 
establishment of an order in rank, and so of an order in 
treatment, of the three main branches — tragedy, epic, and 
comedy. The investigation of tragedy leads to a discrimi- 
nation between its several (internal) components or elements, 
and then to the arrangement of these in a series according 
to their rank. The elements are then treated in that order. 
P'irst comes the "fable" or plot, which is discussed with 
great exhaustiveness, in accordance with the pre-eminent 
importance attached to it by Aristotle. It is next the 
turn of the second main element, the " characters." But 
here the sequence is seriously disturbed. The author 
returns to a particular ingredient in the " fable," recogni- 
tion. This deviation from methodic rigour can be 
adequately explained in perhaps only one way ; it is a 
later addition, introduced by the lecturer when repeating 
his course, and not transferred by the editor to its appro- 
priate place. There follows a long series, not very systema- 
tically arranged, of particular hints and observations, partly 
relating to the tragic poet's process of creation, partly 
betraying a desire to have done with the treatment of 
tragedy and to reserve for further discussion only two 
more of its six components {"reflection" and "diction"). 
That is to say, two of the components, " scenic apparatus " 
and the " song-composition " of the choral portion are 
only mentioned for the sake of completeness, and are 
relegated to the lowest position in spite of their " fascinat- 
ing charm" and their high importance as "seasoning." 
The intention so indicated is realized to this extent that 
" reflection " is referred to the domain of rhetoric ; 
" diction," however, is made the subject of a discussion 
which arouses the reader's astonishment not solely by its 
excessive length. For it is also very surprising at first 
to find that the author treats this and only this component 
of tragedy at a point where, by appending a long series 


of desultory observations, he had shown his intention of 
bringing his theory of tragedy to a conclusion. The two 
circumstances are very closely connected ; and we shall 
now show in what way. 

In Aristotle's age the theory of language had hardly 
progressed beyond its first beginnings (cf. Vol. I. pp. 
441, 442 ; Vol. III. p. 187). It did not provide matter 
enough for an independent treatise. What wonder, then 
if an encyclopaedist of universal range took the first occasion 
which presented itself to make public some part of what he 
had to say on the subject } Such an occasion was supplied 
by the necessity of stating his views on the requirements 
of poetic diction. It was, too, repugnant in itself to 
the Stagirite's systematic intellect to treat of the means of 
poetic expression without first passing in review the means 
of linguistic expression in general. He had thus to begin 
by discriminating the different parts of speech or kinds of 
words. But from words the road leads downwards through 
the syllable to the speech-sound, upwards to discourse or 
the combination of words. (The syntactical remarks on 
this last subject are reserved to the " Rhetoric") Hence 
the great extent of this chapter on language ; hence also 
the position, so strange at first sight, which it occupies. 
In truth, this position was most carefully chosen. At 
any earlier point the excessive length of this section 
would have seriously injured the symmetry of the exposi- 
tion. But there was another consideration which weighed 
still more heavily. " Diction " may be what Aristotle 
calls it, a "component " of tragedy ; but it is just as much 
a component of epic and of every other form of poetry 
It was thus quite a happy thought to place these chapters 
at the close of the part of the work which deals with 
tragedy, and just before the beginning of the sections 
which treat the remaining branches of poetry, beginning 
with epic. The arrangement of the last chapters is not 
less well-considered. Two of them are devoted to the epic 
as such ; the last but one discusses the theme of "problems 
and solutions," the matter of which is taken, not exclusively 
but in far preponderant measure, from heroic poetry. For 
VOL. IV. 2 E 


it was the pattern epics of Homer on which the acumen of 
critics and expositors had from early times been accustomed 
to exercise itself. In this section, a curious guide to the 
dialectics of poetical questions, occasion is taken now and 
then to extract principles of fundamental importance and 
to apply them to tragedy as well as to epic. The con- 
clusion is a comparison of the two forms of poetry which 
alone receive treatment in the extant first book, and is 
intended to supply a final justification for that preference 
of tragedy over epic which has already been amply 

9. Two reasons for this preference are clear and con- 
vincing — the vigorous compression and the lifelike embodi- 
ment in which it presents its characters. The value of this 
" embodiment " is appraised so high by Aristotle that he 
even praises Homer because " he alone did not fail to recog- 
nize what the poet has to do in his own person. . . . The 
others (epic poets) . . . represent by way of imitation only 
isolated details in isolated cases ; but Homer, after a short 
introduction, brings on a man, a woman, or some other 
being, etc." The Stagirite here travels in the footprints 
of his master, who in the " Republic " awards the same 
praise to the " poet," and alludes to the speeches of 
Chryses and Agamemnon at the beginning of the " Iliad." 
" The poet," Aristotle continues, " should say as little as 
possible in his own person ; for to that extent he is not 
an imitative portrayer." Here, to be sure, we must not 
press every word. For as these dramatic episodes, in 
which the characters of the heroic poem are introduced as 
speaking, form only a part of the two Homeric epics, the 
author of the " Poetics " would, strictly interpreted, allow 
Homer the character of an "imitative portrayer" only 
within this limited range ; outside it he would lose this 
character and with it that of poet. But obviously he only 
desired to enforce a distinction of degree, and insisted upon 
it with more than due emphasis. 

As we have already once remarked by way of anticipa- 
tion (cf. p. 144), Aristotle's mode of establishing his thesis 
of the precedence of tragedy before epic is by no means 


free from one-sided violence. It is even claimed as an 
advantage for tragedy that it may make use of the heroic 
metre — in reality an occurrence of the greatest possible 
rarity — while the epic is tied down to one metre, the 
hexameter. Certainly this argument is merely a small 
item in a far more comprehensive plea : tragedy has 
everything which belongs to epic, and surpasses it by 
possessing a greater abundance of artistic resources. But 
a well-considered objection was raised against this state- 
ment by so early an aesthetic as that of the Epicureans, 
and an undeniable, if not very momentous, defect of 
Aristotle's theory of poetry was laid bare at the same 
time. As the subject of poetry, Aristotle had named 
" agents ; " and that by these only men could be under- 
stood appears at once from the immediately following 
division of these acting beings into " noble " and 
"common," into persons who reach the average moral 
level, rise above it, or fall below it. What, asked Philo- 
demus the Epicurean, has become of natural objects and 
processes in the external world, of the (superhuman) 
gods and the (infra-human) animals — themes which are 
practically unknown to Aristotle's favourite, the drama, 
but quite accessible to epic ? Thus, in reality, as he 
contends, these two branches of poetry stand in precisely 
the opposite relation to each other. 

Aristotle the Eristic has now for some time been lost 
to our sight. But here we meet him once more, just as 
we are about to enter upon one of the chief fields of his 
activity, the province of rhetoric. 




I. Far back in the Homeric age the phrase, "To be a 
speaker of words and a doer of deeds," testifies to an 
ideal the like of which is difficult to find in the early period 
of other peoples. In the democratic communities the 
practice of oratory grew to be of cardinal importance 
(cf. Vol. I. p. 382). But it was in the island of Sicily 
that the theory of rhetoric found its first cultivators in the 
persons of Corax and Tisias (cf. Vol. I. pp. 228, 229). The 
man who transplanted Sicilian rhetoric to Athens, Gorgias 
of Leontini, has long ago been introduced to the reader's 
acquaintance (Vol. I. p. 476). Handbooks of this art were 
composed in so great number that a quite general term 
(rt'xv))), denoting arts and crafts of all kinds, was appro- 
priated to this special meaning. The hostile attitude of 
Plato towards that older practice of rhetoric has been shown 
to us in his dialogue " Gorgias," which was primarily directed 
against that sham art, as he held it to be (cf. Vol. II. p. 327), 
We know, too, how after repudiating this art root and 
branch, Plato attempted in the " Phaedrus " to re-establish 
it on new foundations, and to replace empirical routine 
by a scientific system based on dialectic and psychology 
(cf. Vol. III. p. 21). According to this ideal, the orator 
would need such a knowledge of his subject-matter as 
would enable him to analyze it into its finest and minutest 
divisions ; he would also need to know the souls of his 
audience, both comprehensively and individually. While 
still a young man, Aristotle was engaged in the teaching 
of rhetoric (cf p. 20). He was so familiar with the host 
of text books already referred to that he did not disdain 


the task of giving a compendious account of them. During 
his second Athenian residence he delivered a course of 
lectures on rhetoric ; out of these he formed a work of 
three books, the contents of which will now occupy our 

2. The fundamental motive of the first two books (the 
third is mainly devoted to diction) may be taken to be 
that of carrying on towards realization the ideal set up by 
Plato in the "Phaedrus." We agree with the verdict of 
the great historian of Greece that this ideal was in truth 
unattainable, partly because of its severity, partly because 
of internal contradictions by which it is affected. To allow 
for individual differences within the audience is a feat 
which the orator's tact may attempt with approximate 
success ; but to comprehend this infinite variety in general 
precepts may well be accounted an impossibility ; more- 
over, perfect knowledge of the matter in hand, far surpass- 
ing the level of the auditors, would raise, as Grote pointed 
out with a reference to passages in the " Gorgias," an 
almost impassable barrier between the speaker and his 
hearers. But be this as it may, Aristotle believed him- 
self to be making an approach to that high aim when he 
incorporated in his manual on rhetoric sections of psychology 
and descriptive ethics, in particular the theory of the emo- 
tions and an account of the types of character which 
correspond to different ages and stations in life. We have 
not disturbed this arrangement in order to give the reader 
as true a delineation of the book as is possible. In sum- 
marizing its contents we shall hardly be able to avoid 
interspersing critical comments. 

Rhetoric is spoken of as a counterpart to dialectic. With 
both there is an absence of any limitation to a separate 
profession. All are in a measure qualified to practise both 
the one and the other. Hence it must also be possible to 
discover the causes of their occasional success ; and that 
this is the concern of an art, no one will dispute. The 
authors of handbooks have busied themselves only with 
secondary matters, not with the main problem, the creation 
of conviction. The arousing of emotions is something 


subsidiary and unessential ; it is entirely forbidden to 
plaintiffs and defendants by the legislation of all well- 
ordered states, for it is a deliberate warping of what should 
be the straight rule in the hand of justice. A party to a 
suit has merely to prove or disprove some matter of fact. 
But to judge the quality of a fact or an event, to say 
whether it is great or small, just or unjust, is the affair of 
the judge himself, so far as the law entrusts him with the 
decision. Good laws, by the way, leave to the decision of 
the judge as little as possible, and that for three reasons. 
It is easier to find one or a few wise (legislator or legis- 
lators) than many ; the legislator judges at leisure and not 
on the spur of the moment ; lastly and chiefly, the decision 
of the law is general and delivered in advance, not special 
and concerned with matters of the immediate present. 
When the latter is the case, love and hatred interfere too 
easily, private prejudice does its share, and all together 
cloud thefaculty of judgment. We notice how the forensic 
oration has imperceptibly taken the place of oratory in 
general, not exclusively, indeed, but preponderantly. As 
Aristotle himself tells us, the labours of his predecessors 
had been concentrated upon this special province — the less 
harmless one, he adds, since he who judges on political 
questions, has only to decide concerning his own interests, 
while the judge in the law courts gives decisions affecting 
the interests of others. (This position, it might be replied, 
can be maintained only where the body of citizens possesses 
strict unity, and where the interests which are severally 
at stake are always those of the community, and not 
merely of a party.) 

3. Thus the true subject of rhetoric is the means of 
convincing, and these again are the means of proof. To 
be familiar with these, to possess even the power of proving 
opposites in order to be on guard against the misuse of 
them, is a kind of defensive efficiency more important 
and more worthy of humanity than endowment with bodily 
strength. The objection that the power of speech may 
do as much harm when unjustly used as good when 
justly, applies in no higher degree to this than to any 


other good thing, with the sole exception of virtue. Here 
Aristotle stands on the side of Gorgias and Polus against 
Plato (cf. Vol II. p. 328), and at the head of a long series 
of writers, chiefly Stoic, Epicurean, and Sceptic philosophers, 
who have unweariedly discussed the pros and cons of this 

The task of rhetoric is not to convince, but to discern 
the means of convincing, which are present in each special 
case The means of gaining assent are divided into 
" artful " and " artless." It is only the first that we 
create ; the second we merely use, e.g. depositions of 
witnesses, business documents, and so forth. Certain 
means of persuasion are mentioned which are relative to 
the character of the speaker ; along with these, remarkably 
enough, we find those which at the outset were so flatly 
repudiated, those, namely, which are based on the emotions 
of the hearers. Three demands are now made upon the 
orator. He must possess the power of drawing inferences, 
the power of judging about virtues and characters, and, 
with regard to the emotions, the knowledge of what each of 
them is, what are its qualities, how and by what means it 
is aroused. Those who participate in the deliberations 
here referred to, the juror and the ecclesiast, are regarded 
as " men of simple mind," and as incapable of " reaching 
a conclusion through a number of intermediate steps and 
drawing long-spun inferences ; " hence in this department 
(the political and judicial department, on which the author's 
attention becomes more and more focussed) abridged and 
effective forms are to be used, both of the syllogism and 
of induction. These forms are, on the one hand, probable 
reasonings and inferences from marks (enthymemes) ; on 
the other, the example. These arguments may be sound 
or the reverse. A sound argument from marks, for 
example, is the following : So-and-so is feverish, therefore 
he is ill ; or again : Such and such a woman has milk, 
therefore she has borne a child. But it would be unsound 
to reason thus : So-and-so is feverish, for he is breathing 
rapidly ; for his manner of breathing may be due to 
another cause {e.g. violent running). The '' example " may 


be used to prove that Dionysius of Syracuse is aiming 
at a tyranny ; he has, in fact, demanded a body-guard, 
which is what others did before him. Pisistratus at 
Athens, Theagenes at Megara, when they sought to 
become tyrants. Enthymemes are now divided into those 
which are deduced from general truths, valid in all regions 
of knowledge, and special truths, limited to particular fields. 
This distinction is intended to pave the way for the lengthy 
treatment of the subject which follows later. But first 
the subject-matter of rhetoric is divided into its three 
branches : deliberative, forensic, and display-oratory. 

4. The deliberative, or political, speech aims sometimes 
at suasion, in other cases at dissuasion ; the forensic speech 
may be inculpatory or defensive ; the show-speech, finally, 
has for its subject praise or blame. The first species is 
concerned with the future, the second with the past, the 
third mainly with the present, but not exclusively (we 
may instance funeral and memorial speeches) For the 
orator of the first kind the chief point of view is that 
of the useful (which he commends), or of the harmful 
(against which he warns) ; other points of view, such as 
those of the just and the unjust, the praiseworthy and 
the blameable, also play their part. In the forensic speech, 
the question of justice and injustice takes the supreme 
place, and it is the others already mentioned which enter 
in as accessory. For the orator who deals in eulogy or 
invective, the laudable and the blameworthy occupy the 
forefront. In the law court the defendant does not always 
deny that he did the alleged deed, or that the alleged 
damage was caused, but he never admits his guilt (or at 
least the full guilt). The deliberative orator, again, will 
never avow that he is advising what is injurious or un- 
profitable, and that he is dissuading from what is salutary, 
whatever other concessions he may make to his opponent. 
In panegyric and invective, finally, the same holds of 
the noble or morally good, and its opposite. From all 
this it follows that the orator must be ready with proposi- 
tions relating to the possible and the impossible, the 
real and the unreal, in the past as well as the future. 


and so on. It also follows that since everything often 
turns on degrees of utility and harmfulness, of justice 
and injustice, of good and bad, both in the absolute 
and the relative sense, orators must also have at their 
disposal propositions about greatness and smallness in 
general, and particularly on the determination of which 
is the greater good or evil, which the greater or smaller 

The subject-matter of deliberation is now stated to 
be the contingent, as distinguished both from the im- 
possible and the necessary ; within the contingent it is 
further limited to that which lies within our power. The 
detailed treatment of these subjects of deliberation, the 
encroachment of merely formal rhetoric on the domain 
of the objective studies, particularly politics, is repeatedly 
and emphatically disallowed. But this does not prevent 
the author from entering somewhat fully into the questions 
which form the matter of political deliberation. He names 
five of them as the most important : taxation, war and 
peace, defence, imports and exports, legislation. He 
expatiates on these points, and, apropos of legislation, 
touches on themes which have been discussed in the 
" Politics," such as the different forms of constitution and 
the question of what tends towards the preservation and 
what towards the destruction of each. Throughout, the 
political orator is required to enlarge his survey to the 
greatest possible width, and to gain an extensive know- 
ledge both of historical facts and of contemporary parallels 
to them. 

5. The different points of view indicated above are now 
considered in greater detail. Nothing is here so note- 
worthy as the way in which the author of the " Rhetoric " 
takes his stand almost entirely on current opinions, often 
strangely conflicting with his own ethical doctrines. He 
starts from the deliberative or political speech, the gist 
of which is persuasion to or dissuasion from some measure. 
In either case the orator has to do with what men choose 
or avoid. The first is essentially well-being or happiness. 
In conformity with popular opinion the elements of 


well-being are enumerated somewhat as follows : high 
birth, the possession of numerous good friends, wealth, 
children, happy old age, bodily excellences of all kinds, 
good repute, honour, good fortune, virtue. All these 
are discussed separately, and Aristotle here shows 
himself possessed by a real mania for divisions and 
definitions. For example, bodily strength is explained 
as " the power to move other things at will ; " and even 
the different modes of so moving them," pulling, pushing, 
lifting, pressing, binding together, do not go unmentioned. 
Or again : a good runner is he "who can throw his legs 
about in a particular way, moving them rapidly, and 
through a long range." In the middle of these truisms 
we find a warning which sounds like irony : " Yet for our 
purposes we have no need of pedantic minutiae." 

From the elements of happiness the investigation passes 
on to the main points of view which present themselves 
when we have to judge of the good and the useful, ends 
as well as means. We are surprised to meet once more 
with well-being, which is placed at the head of goods 
certainly, but yet as one among them, and side by side 
with virtue ; though for Aristotle the moralist well-being 
is by definition " an acting according to virtue." There is 
perhaps some bearing on the technique of oratory in the 
review of the arguments which are available in this field 
on occasions of doubt. Thus among others : that is a good 
of which the opposite is an evil ; or of which the opposite 
is advantageous, desirable, or welcome to an enemy. Or 
again : that is a good which has cost much labour and 
expense. And further : that which is striven after or com- 
peted for by many. Such a summary of the points of view 
from which it is possible to commend a thing or an action 
whose value is not evident at first sight might at times be 
of real use to an orator by leading him into the road most 
serviceable for his purpose. 

In what follows it is presumed that opinions agree on 
the quality of a course of action, or on the predicate applic- 
able to a fact, while disagreeing on the point of more or 
less. Here, again, there is much that is self-evident, but 


we yet note some features of interest, especially in the 
way in which opposed points of view are brought into pro- 
minence. It is possible to attribute greater guilt to the 
instigator than to the actual doer of a wrongful act, but so 
also is the reverse judgment. Sometimes we may rate 
more highly the rarity-value of an object, sometimes its 
utility-value ; so that at one time gold, at another iron, will 
be pronounced the more valuable. One and the same 
thing may be made to seem greater if we set out its parts 
in extended order, smaller if we lump them all together. 

6. After a digression into the domain of the "Politics," 
and a reference to this work, praise and blame have their 
turn. The occasion is taken to discuss virtues and vices, 
moral beauty and ugliness. The purpose is twofold, partly 
that the orator may be able to praise and blame others 
in appropriate manner, partly that he may present himself 
to the audience in a favourable light, so as to win their 
confidence. In the treatment of the virtues, which are 
called the " capacities for well-doing," their social side is 
here placed in the forefront, just as everything else is 
viewed from the standpoint, not of the agent, but of the 
public. " The brave and the just are honoured chiefly 
because courage is useful to others in war and justice in 
peace," In the course of the discussion rhetoric slips 
gradually into a mere art of deception. We seem to be 
once more in the " Topics " (cf. pp. 53, 54). For the purpose 
both of praise and of blame it is recommended that things 
which are no more than closely allied should occasionally 
be treated as identical. It may be advisable to represent 
the cautious and reserved man as a dissembler, to praise 
as good those who are merely simple, as gentle those who 
are merely thick-skinned. Vicious extremes may be trans- 
formed into virtues. The foolhardy may be described as 
brave, the prodigal as generous, possibly with the help of 
such arguments as these : If that man hazards his life with- 
out need, how much more would he do so at the bidding 
of honour ! if this man is open-handed to all, how much 
more so to his friends ! Similarly, what is accidental may 
be represented as done with a purpose ; a characteristic 


prized by a particular audience may be transfigured into 
some noble quality closely related to it. All this applies 
equally to the political speech and the display-oration. 
That which is recommended in the first, will, in the second, 
if this is of the eulogistic type, be represented as having 
been attained ; rules for invective may be obtained by 
inverting those for panegyric. 

7. The forensic speech, in which both accusation and 
defence are included, gives an occasion for discussing the 
motives of unjust action, and indirectly brings under con- 
sideration the motives of all action. The doing of injustice 
which is called " a voluntary and unlawful injuring" (where 
the word "law" is to be understood in its widest sense), 
presupposes, in the first place, the voluntariness of the 
actions concerned. This notion is reduced to that of 
" action which is not constrained or unconscious," and 
which generally is also "purposeful." Three causes are 
named of involuntary action, and four of voluntary : 
chance, nature, and force on the one side ; habit, reflection, 
the active emotions, and the desires on the other. The 
aims pursued by voluntary actions are specified as the 
good or apparently good, and the pleasant or apparently 
pleasant ; herein is included also the removal or mitigation 
of real or apparent evils, and the really or apparently pain- 
ful. But since the useful has already been treated in con- 
nexion with deliberative oratory, it is now time to speak of 
the pleasant, and that " in a manner neither obscure nor 
too precise." What actually follows is a treatise on 
pleasure, the essential content of which we have already 
considered in advance (cf. pp. 305, 306). 

Actions may be pleasurable, not only when they are 
according to nature, but also when they are according to 
custom. Pleasure, too, belongs to mental images, which are 
" weakened sensations," whether they take the form of recol- 
lection or of expectation. And this is not really true in so 
far as what gives pleasure in the present produces the same 
effect by means of retrospect or prospect. Even past pain 
brings pleasure when it is thought of as overcome. Again, 
most desires are accompanied by a certain pleasure, that 


which comes from the memory of past or the hope of future 
satisfaction. Here, too, the pleasure of melancholy is men- 
tioned. Grief for the present deprivation is coupled with 
the remembrance of former possession. The pleasure of 
victory is traced into the realms of the chase and of games. 
Wherever competition rules, there is to be found the 
pleasurable expectation of success or distinction. A re- 
mark on the joys of the dialectical combat " for those who 
are trained and qualified for it," is drawn from the depths 
of personal experience. Renown and honour infuse into us 
the cheering belief that we actually possess the excellence 
ascribed to us ; a similar effect is produced by the admira- 
tion and love which we receive, and the sham admiration 
and friendship of the flatterer affect us by the same means. 
The seeing again of highly valued persons and things 
affords both the pleasure which comes from change and 
that which is caused by the rareness of an experience. 

There follow the pleasures of learning and of surprise. 
When learning is called a " return to the normal state," the 
reference is, no doubt, to the restoration of intellectual 
tranquillity after the unrest of perplexity, investigation, 
and doubt. The joys of beneficence are here regarded as 
merely the pleasures of " possessing " (the means by which 
the benefit is conferred) and of " excelling " (the person 
benefited). The sympathetic feelings are here entirely 
ignored ; moreover, the conception of benevolence, with 
which we have already made acquaintance (pp. 291, 292), 
goes to much greater depths. That Aristotle treats the 
same problem, in one place with profundity, in another with 
comparative shallowness, is a fact worth our notice. Dis- 
tinguished as he is by fulness and abundance of thoughts, 
he betrays occasionally lack of resisting power against 
inadequate thoughts. Here, too, we encounter a touch of 
perversity — the derivation of self-love from pleasure in the 
similar and the cognate, which is represented as reaching 
its culminating point in the relation of a man to himself! 
Some artificiality, again, may be detected in the following 
derivation. It is pleasurable to be regarded as wise ; for 
wisdom is a means of rule, and nothing affords greater 


satisfaction than to rule over others. What need, we may 
ask, was there of this circuit, since not all wisdom has 
that effect; and it would have been enough to appeal 
to the pleasure of " excelling," which had already been 
discussed ? 

8. After the motives of injustice, the subjects and 
objects of unjust action have their turn. The persons who 
are inclined to injustice are those who think themselves 
strong enough for it, or who have a prospect of remaining 
undiscovered, or who can foresee that their punishment, 
if it comes, will be light relatively to the pleasure or utility 
to be gained. In the elaboration of these thoughts we 
meet with not a little that is subtle, but at the same time, 
it must be admitted, with several examples of perverse 
ingenuity. One safeguard against detection, it is said, is 
a quality in the agent out of keeping with the punishable 
action ; such would be bodily weakness in one guilty of 
violent assault, or poverty and ugliness in a seducer. Pro- 
tection of the same kind is given not only by the secrecy 
of an action, but also by the exact opposite, its publicity ; 
for people are not prepared for this, and so may easily 
omit the proper precautions. To have no enemy and to 
have many enemies may be considered equally advan- 
tageous. Those who are not hated count on the circum- 
stance that no one is on his guard against them ; those 
who are much-hated will hardly be credited with running 
any risks in face of the caution observed towards them, 
and they plead this improbability when on their defence. 
Wrong-doing is prompted both by frequent success and 
by repeated failure. The first encourages, the second spurs 
on to renewed endeavours in the hope of mending the 
record. A parallel is drawn between those to whom in- 
justice brings gain, punishment merely dishonour, and 
those who, on the contrary, win some honour from the 
wrongful act (as in the case of avenging one's parents), 
while the punishment is not dishonouring, but amounts to 
a fine, banishment, or the like. In both ways an incentive 
is created to wrong-doing ; not for the same persons, but 
for persons of opposite characters. The weak and the 


strong of will are led into evil by motives of opposite 
kinds — the first by a prospect of pleasure or profit in the 
near future, the second by a prospect of gain or advantage, 
which, though deferred, will be permanent. Good repute 
and its opposite may produce the same efi'ect. If a man 
is highly esteemed, he will not readily be believed guilty ; 
if he is already despised, an increase of infamy means little 
for him. 

This same fondness for making play with antitheses 

appears again in the section on the objects of aggression. 

Men are ready to attack both the very far and the very 

near. They are beckoned on in the one case by an early 

gain, in the other by a late punishment. Suitable objects 

of attack are found in the confiding, the light-minded, the 

timid, who willingly shirk a conflict. Those who have 

never yet been attacked, and those who have been attacked 

many times, are equally removed from caution : the first 

because as yet such dangers lie outside their experience, 

the second because they do not expect an immediate 

repetition of what they have experienced. (One may with 

some justice refer this last remark to a mania for paradox. 

For one victim of theft who says, " I shall surely not be 

robbed again just yet awhile," there are ten others who 

iearn wisdom from misfortune.) Next are mentioned 

slandered persons and persons open to slander, who go to 

law unwillingly, and for the most part without success. 

Friends and enemies appear in strange conjunction. One 

injures the first with pleasure and the second with ease. 

It is next the turn of the friendless, the incompetent, the 

over-busy, who shun lawsuits and may therefore without 

difficulty be induced to compromise. Men are disposed 

to commit wrongful acts which ingratiate them with those 

on whom they depend. Again, wrong-doing hardly appears 

as such when it has been preceded by strife and violent 

disputation. Much the same is the case when the same 

injury is threatened us by others, and we merely strike 

the first blow. Or again, when, in the words of Jason, the 

tyrant of Phera;, "a little wrong gives us the means of 

doing great good," In conclusion, cases of a more trivial 


kind are mentioned, such as wrong which is universal, or 
at least of great frequency (we may instance smuggling 
on the small scale), the appropriation of objects hard to 
identify, and injuries which the victims will not willingly 
make public. 

9. Some chapters of criminal jurisprudence are now 
inserted in the " Rhetoric," just as the " Poetics " contained 
a section on language. Here, as before, the author seizes 
an occasion to touch, even if summarily, on a subject as 
yet little developed. We pass over the distinctions, not 
new to us between the " written " and the " unwritten law " 
(cf. p. 328), to which latter is added the more comprehen- 
sive idea of universal or natural law, and again between 
voluntary and involuntary action (cf. pp. 249 and 263). 
Aristotle insists on the question of fact and the question 
of culpability being kept strictly separate ; he also urges 
the need of more exact definitions in this field, as, for 
example, mere removal of an object is not theft ; there 
must also be a suffering of loss on the one side and an 
appropriation on the other. He further enforces the differ- 
ence between services which give proof of "superfluous 
merit " and bare fulfilment of legal duty. Equity, which 
fills up the gaps left intentionally and unintentionally by 
the laws, is treated at some length (cf. pp. 263, 264). The 
conclusion is as follows : " It is the part of equity to look 
not to the law but to the legislator, not to his words but to 
his thoughts, not to the deed but to the intention, not to the 
part but to the whole, not to the present but to the per- 
manent qualities of the doer." We note, in passing, that 
the vigorous juristic sense which we have learnt in the school 
of Rome obviously remained as foreign to the Stagirite as 
to his contemporaries. There is nothing to support and 
much to rebut the supposition that he condemned the habit, 
so prominent in Attic forensic orations, of seeking to in- 
fluence unduly the decision on a particular case by bring- 
ing under consideration the whole life of the accused, and 
especially his political conduct. 

Another subject discussed in this section is the magni- 
tude of guilt, and the different modes of measuring it. One 



point of view is the following. An injury is greater or less 
in proportion to the injustice from which it springs. 
According to this it may happen that the smallest possible 
injury becomes in special circumstances (as in sacrilege) 
the greatest of all. Other standards are supplied by the 
extent of the loss inflicted, the impossibility of complete 
reparation, the magnitude of the consequences (as when, 
for example, the injured person commits suicide in despair), 
also the unprecedented nature of the offence, though with 
this is coupled the precisely opposite quality of common- 
ness. Other factors which come into consideration are the 
brutality of the misdeed ; its long premeditation ; its scene — 
for example, the court of justice in which perjury is com- 
mitted — lastly, the disgracefulness of the act and the per- 
sonality of the victim, who may, as an instance, be a 
benefactor of the delinquent. A violator of the unwritten 
law may be represented — by the help of a fallacy, we may 
add — as the more responsible : '•' For it is a greater merit 
to honour a law which lacks penal sanction ; hence its 
violation brings the heavier guilt." But the contrary 
inference is also legitimate : " How should a man who is 
not restrained even by the fear of punishment forbear a 
wrongful act for which no punishment awaits him } " We 
note how quickly the teacher has given place to the dialecti- 
cian. The latter continues to hold the field, and gives 
suggestions on the use of the " artless means of proof." 
These are specified as citations from the text of the law, 
depositions of witnesses, contracts, confessions made under 
torture, and the oaths of the parties. 

10. We confine ourselves almost exclusively to the 
modes of interpreting the laws which Aristotle suggests 
for the deliberative assembly and the law court. The 
primary object is to resist the application of laws which 
run counter to the cause defended by the orator. A really 
sound piece of advice deserves to be quoted first : we 
are counselled to ask whether the law is not obsolete, 
whether it has not survived the conditions which led to 
its enactment? When we are bidden to examine the 
law cited against us for possible internal contradictions 
\UL. IV. 2 F 


and for a possible conflict with some law esteemed of 
higher importance, the recommendation sounds harmless 
enough. Much more questionable is the obviously arbitrary 
interpretation which, it is suggested, may be put upon the 
promise contained in the juror's oath to judge " according 
to one's best knowledge and conscience." This formula, 
it is suggested, may be made out to mean that we need 
not trouble ourselves about the written laws at all. We 
are to arrive at this result by contrasting the immutable 
permanence of equity and of universal or natural law with 
the variability of written law. Indeed, we may go so far 
as to maintain that the latter is really no law at all, since 
it does not fulfil the task required of law ; the judge 
resembles an assayer of coin ; it is for him to distinguish 
the genuine from the spurious in this department. It 
is also the part of the better man to honour the 
unwritten law. 

The case is very different when the written law speaks 
in our favour. The above-mentioned formula must then 
receive only a very limited interpretation. It is not meant 
to justify us in judging contrary to the law, but only to 
relieve us from the charge of perjury if our knowledge 
of law happens to be defective. Contracts are treated in 
a particularly audacious manner. If they are in our favour, 
we are to play out our trump as follows : " The law itself is 
a contract ; he, therefore, who weakens fidelity to contracts 
weakens fidelity to the law." In the contrary case, it is 
open to us to exclaim : " How strange, if we hold ourselves 
free to refuse obedience to the laws when they are ill-made 
and their authors have erred, while we owe inviolable 
obedience to contracts ! " 



aristotle and rhetoric. 

(Continuation : The Emotions and Types of 

I. The mixed feelings with which we take our leave of 
these ingenious hints on deception soon make way for 
much more uniform and agreeable impressions. We 
allude to the theory of the emotions and the descriptions 
of types of character, two brilliant sections, which occupy 
the first half of the second book. The transition is 
effected by the remark that men's judgment is not deter- 
mined by proofs alone, but just as much by the personal 
impression which the speaker makes, and by the disposi- 
tions and moods of those to whom the speech is addressed. 
The second factor is of decisive significance in the forensic 
speech, the first in the political or deliberative speech. 

The convincing power of a speech depends partly on 
three qualities of the orator : his wisdom, his rectitude, and 
his good will. For the first two points we are referred to 
the " Ethics ; " for the third, and for modes of influencing 
the mood and disposition of the audiences, to the doctrine 
of the emotions which now follows. The emotions in 
question are specified as those " by the change of which 
the judgment itself becomes changed." The more accurate 
treatment of them comprises three heads : the disposition 
of mind from which the emotion springs ; the persons 
towards which it is directed ; the occasions which commonly 
give rise to it. This triple knowledge is the preliminary 
condition for the rousing of emotions by oratory. It is 
surprising to find this subject, which seems to belong much 


more properly to psychology or descriptive ethics, im- 
ported into a work on rhetoric, and there treated with an 
exhaustiveness that goes far beyond the end in view. 
That which moved Aristotle to this procedure was probably 
in the first place, the Platonic ideal of that art as set forth 
in the " Phsedrus ; " and secondly the wish, cherished no 
less warmly by him than by his master, to separate the 
new exposition of rhetoric as widely as possible from the 
old empirical methods and routine wisdom. It so comes 
about that we have before us foundations of much greater 
depth and strength than is justified by the superstructure 
which rests upon them. We shall, perhaps, not be far 
wrong in conjecturing that Aristotle was glad of the 
opportunity to raise the tone of that initiation into 
rhetorical fencing tricks which practical considerations 
had forced upon him. Another cause operating in the 
same direction may have been a recollection of the fact 
that at the beginning of the work he had been unwilling 
to allow emotional effects any place at all in oratory 
(cf. pp. 421, 422). Now that he found himself constrained 
to descend from that ideal height, he preferred to do so in 
such a manner that the subject proscribed at first might 
appear in strictly scientific garb, not as merely auxiliary 
to rhetorical success. 

2. At the head of the emotions stands anger, which is 
described as " a passionate longing for the real or apparent 
avenging of a real or apparent injury, inflicted on us by 
one who has no right to treat us or ours in such a manner." 
Mention has already been made of the pleasure which 
the hope of revenge mingles with the painful feeling 
(cf p. 429). But apart from this hope, an element of 
pleasure is recognized as present in the mere dwelling on 
the thought of revenge. We are predisposed to anger by 
whatever emotion predominates in us for the moment. 
This is so because our anger is generally directed against 
those who oppose our present desires or needs, especially 
when we have thought ourselves entitled to expect the 
contrary. We are angry, too, with those who despise us in 
respect of matters on which we lay the greatest importance, 


and more particularly when our self-confidence is not 
secure. An enumeration is given of the circumstances in 
which such contempt is felt as especially painful. Even 
the forgetting of our name may hurt our feelings as a sign 
of neglect or low esteem. Anger is diminished by diversion 
to another object ; it becomes extinguished when those 
with whom we are angry suffer worse harm than we were 
willing to inflict upon them. 

The unusually exhaustive discussion of friendship sur- 
prises us, as already a whole quarter of the " Ethics " has 
been devoted to this subject. And yet we cannot say that 
there is real repetition. Friendship is defined as " unselfish 
benevolence practically manifested within the limits of 
possibility." There follows a review of the conditions or 
causes of friendship and its opposite. This section treats 
only of private friendship, and does not, like those two 
books of the " Ethics," include within its scope benevolent 
sentiments extended over whole groups. 

Fear has the next turn. It is explained as an " un- 
pleasant feeling or unrest which is caused by the idea of 
an imminent evil bringing injury or annoyance." The 
" imminence " is limited to the near future, for all men 
know that they must die some day, and yet are not 
constantly filled with the dread of death. We are given a 
long review of the different objects of fear, after which 
follows an account of the qualities of the fearing subject. 
Fear always implies an admixture of hope ; the absence 
of this produces dull despair, a cold indifference to the 

Courage, the opposite of fear, next receives attention, 
and then shame, here described as a " disgust or uneasiness 
in respect of past, present, or future misdoings which seem 
of a kind to give one a bad reputation." Shamelessness, 
on the other hand, is a negligence or indifference shown in 
this direction. The next place is taken by " favour " or 
good will, the manifestations of which " are accorded to 
one who needs them neither out of gratitude nor in the 
interests of the person who accords them, but in the 
interests of the recipient." Here, as in some of the 


earlier sections, short practical applications to rhetoric are 
interspersed. Thus it is sometimes requisite in a speech 
to magnify the extent of favour entertained and the great- 
ness of the consequent service ; at another time it may be 
desired to minimize the favour and the gratitude due for 
it — a purpose which is served by proving a selfish motive, a 
chance coincidence, external compulsion, or the absence of 
initiative (the service rendered being the repayment for 
one received). 

Pity is defined as an unpleasant feeling excited by the 
contemplation of a real or supposed evil which is destruc- 
tive or painful and at the same time undeserved. It is 
implied here, as we learn from an added remark, that the 
contemplator, or at least persons in close relation to him, 
must not be absolutely protected against the same or 
cognate evils. Neither the utterly miserable nor those 
who think themselves in the assured possession of good 
fortune are accessible to this emotion. Some consideration 
is now given to the qualities of those who are inclined 
to pity. They include those who have often been afflicted 
or threatened by fate ; the advanced in age, because of 
their richer reflexion and riper experience ; the educated, 
too, for the first of these reasons ; then come the weakly ; 
and, last of all, those who are exposed to ill fortune at 
a multitude of points, as by the possession of parents, 
children, wives. Those are excluded who for the moment 
are dominated by the active emotions, as well as those 
who are absolutely filled with fear. In the first case, we 
may add, it is the quality of the prevailing emotion which 
bars the way to pity ; in the second, to a certain extent, its 
quantity. " Their own emotion holds them captive," so that 
they cannot share in the emotions of others, even when 
of similar kind. Those, too, are void of pity who think 
meanly of the worth of men, and who are, therefore, inclined 
to judge every misfortune well deserved. 

From the discussion upon the objects of pity, we pick 
out the observation that these objects should not be too 
closely connected with ourselves. Otherwise the same 
thing may happen as in the tale of the Egyptian king 


who was dethroned by the Persian conqueror : he wept 
on seeing a friend begging who had been thrown into 
destitution by this catastrophe, but remained tearless when 
he saw his own son led to death. 

3. We now reach the most instructive, if not the most 
interesting, parts of this section. The good will manifested 
in " pity " is contrasted with that element of feeling which 
may be called ill will or malice, though hardly without 
expressing in these words a judgment of condemnation 
which did not in ancient times command the same general 
assent that it does now. This is a point at which we 
encounter significant distinctions, on which it will repay us 
to dwell for a moment. Aristotle places at the head of this 
group of emotions a feeling for which we have no separate 
name — " a being pained by undeserved good fortune." 
This he sets by the side of pity, which is " a being pained 
by undeserved bad fortune ; " he represents both alike as 
the outflowing of a " well-formed character," and even 
appeals to the fact that " we attribute this feeling to the 
gods " no less than the other. The untranslatable Greek 
verb (vc/u£(Tav) is connected with Nemesis, the name of the 
goddess whose task is to watch over right " distribution " 
(vi/uiHv), and who is always ready to check and to punish 
every disturbance of the due order. 

The modern namelessness of this emotion, which we 
might call with Nietzsche " the nobler brother of envy," is 
not accidental. It rests on the fact that the universal and 
therefore indiscriminating love of humanity which is con- 
stantly preached to us revolts against all ill will, even when 
of a kind that both springs from pure sources and is well 
fitted to produce salutary effects. Aristotle tells us that 
slavish natures are inaccessible to this emotion as well as 
evil persons and those destitute of the love of honour ; un- 
usual susceptibility to it is possessed by those who thirst 
for action, especially when they see the goals to which they 
strive reached by the unworthy. Nor are there wanting 
external circumstances by which the strength of this 
emotion is increased or diminished. Goods bestowed by 
nature, such as noble birth or personal beauty, seem to 


give a kind of claim to the possession of other goods as 
well. And " since the familiar comes near to the natural," 
this feeling is aroused less by hereditary power and wealth 
than by the new acquisitions oi 'Ccvo. parvetm. 

Envy, too, is directed against the prosperity of others, 
but not because it is undeserved. It strikes most readily 
at our equals and our like, those with whose lot we are 
accustomed to compare our own. (Let it be remarked, in 
passing, that we do not confute Aristotle by pointing out 
that the proletarian may envy the millionaire. This may 
happen in critical epochs, but not in ages when the inequality 
^of life-conditions is secure against all critical attack.) At 
this point the " bad " emotion just named comes into close 
contact with another — again nameless for us moderns — 
which arises in the same circumstances, but differs in the 
ground of displeasure. We do not, in virtue of it, resent the 
fact that others possess " highly prized goods from which 
we are not excluded as a matter of course," but rather the 
fact that we do not ourselves possess them. This feeling, 
which stimulates energy and is therefore deemed " noble," 
might be named by us " emulation," but this term would 
not exhaust its content. The derivatives of the Greek 
word, ^i^Aor, which was taken over by the Romans, form 
two series in the Romance languages — on the one hand, 
zelo, zUe^ etc., on the other, gelosia, jalousie, etc. ; in English 
there are " zeal " and "jealousy." The words of the second 
series thus denote the unpleasant feeling which is the root 
of the emotions, while those of the first denote the active 
element, the eager striving and working, which results from 
it. In order to gauge the importance which this emotion 
had for the Greek, we must remember the wide space 
occupied in the life of the Hellenic nation by various forms 
of contest (gymnastic, musical, poetical, and particularly 
dramatic, prize competitions). So much for the distinc- 
tions and agreements within this group of emotions. 
Displeasure provoked by others' prosperity is common to 
them all, but they are differentiated in a remarkable 
manner. In the one first spoken of, A, the displeasure 
is due to the unworthiness of the favoured person, in B 


and C to their (real or supposed) equality with us ; B is 
an ignoble state of mind, while A and C are noble, A 
because of the moral appraisement contained in it, C 
because of the spur which it supplies to increased activity 
and self-perfecting. 

4. This refined subtlety in the characterizations of 
emotions and in the exposition of their manifold ramifica- 
tions does great honour to the Stagirite. Even the founder 
of modern philosophy yields place to him in this respect. 
We may recall, for example, how casually Descartes 
describes jealousy as a species of fear, or emulation as a 
form of courage, without bringing out the features of agree- 
ment and difference between these emotions and others 
akin to them. There is, moreover, a second point at which 
the comparison turns out in favour of Aristotle. He is 
well acquainted with, and he gives emphatic prominence 
to, the twofold nature of the emotions, which have their 
somatic as well as their psychic side. From the occasional 
occurrence of strong emotion without any sufficient cause 
that can be perceived, he infers that in these cases a 
physical predisposition plays a considerable part ; and he 
puts himself far in advance of his epoch by recognizing 
that " the investigation of psychic processes in general, or 
at least of this element in them, is the business of the 
nature-student." But in this case he observes a most wise 
self-restraint ; it is only by way of illustrating his general 
thought that he mentions the " surging of the blood in the 
region of the heart," which he supposed was the physio- 
logical accompaniment of a fit of anger. On the other 
hand, the early Stoics incorporated a physical counterpart, 
a " swelling " or " contraction," etc, in all their definitions 
relating to this subject. And Descartes hardly rendered a 
service to the progress of psychology by invoking the 
fantastic physiological creations of his day, — the " vital 
spirits," the affections of the pineal gland, and so forth. 

But it should not be passed over in silence that in this 
field Descartes proved himself superior to Aristotle as an 
analyst. The latter described pleasure and its opposite, 
which he made the sources of desire, as ingredients in all 


emotions without exception, by defining the latter, taken 
collectively, as states of the soul which cloud the judgment, 
being charged with pleasure and pain. Not so Descartes, 
who expressly set a kind of surprise {admiration) y in itself 
free from pleasure and pain, at the head of his six " funda- 
mental emotions " {passions primitives), and explained all 
the emotions partly as combinations of those six (surprise, 
love, hate, desire, joy, and sorrow), partly as subordinate 
varieties of them. 

5. No reservation of this nature qualifies the admira- 
tion aroused by the descriptive part of the theory of the 
emotions, or by the delineations which follow of different 
stages, and particularly different conditions of life. In 
youth the will is said to be rather violent than deep, 
much like the hunger and thirst of the sick. Youth is 
full of confidence, because it has not yet suffered many 
deceptions ; full of hope, because it has not yet experienced 
many failures. But the chief reason is that the young have 
hot blood by nature, as the drunken have it from wine. 
For them, too, the realm of hope, that is, the future, is 
immeasurably large, while the past, the realm of memory, 
is exceedingly small. They are lofty-minded, for life has 
not yet crushed them down ; they do not yet know the 
double standard of the noble and the useful. And since 
as yet they judge nothing according to its utility, not even 
friendships, youth has more feeling for friendship and com- 
panionship than any other stage of life. Their faults spring 
from neglect of the maxim : " Keep measure." The young 
love in excess and hate in excess ; they are full of assurance, 
and believe they know everything. The wrong which they 
do has its source in high spirits, not malice. They are full 
of pity because they think well of all the world, measuring 
their neighbours by the standard of their own inoffensive- 
ness. They are fond of laughter, and therefore pleasant 
company ; they are prone to "cultured wantonness." 

To all this age supplies the exact antithesis. The old 
have lived through many disappointments and failures, in 
consequence of which all confidence and assurance have 
departed from them. They "know" nothing, but only 

Y0U1H AND AGE. 443 

" think." They are suspicious from mistrust, mistrustful 
from experience. They love as if in the future they were 
destined to hate, and they hate as if they might some day 
love. They are narrow-hearted, because life has crushed 
them down. They know, too, by experience, how hard it 
is to gain anything, how easy to lose. They are as timid 
as the young are brave, since the coldness of age seconds 
the chill of fear. They cling to life, and the more so at 
the end, because desire is directed towards what is absent. 
They are selfish beyond due bounds, for this, too, is little- 
ness of mind. In consequence of their egoism they live 
more by the rule of the useful than by that of the beautiful. 
The loquacity of age is in great measure caused by the 
wide space which the past occupies in an old man's life. 
They also are full of pity, not as the young from love of 
humanity, but from weakness ; for no evil seems to them 

In all these points middle age holds an intermediate 
position. Here moderation and courage are found com- 
bined, while in the extreme stages of life they are only found 
separately. The young are both brave and dissolute, the old 
at the same time moderate and cowardly. There are other 
ways, too, in which the advantages which are divided 
between youth and age appear combined in middle life. 
It is here that excess and defect are replaced by the right 
measure and the befitting. The remark occurs that the 
body attains its full development between thirty and thirty- 
five, the soul at forty-nine. The remarkable precision of this 
last statement is probably to be ascribed to the influence 
which the significance of the number seven (7 X 7) had 
gained over the biological views of even an Aristotle. 

6. Further sketches describe the types of the noble, 
the rich, the possessor of political power. The man of 
noble descent is inclined to look down even upon those 
who are as important in the present day as his own 
ancestors were in the old days. The former lack the 
transfiguring lustre of past time and many a decorative 
addition. Emphasis is laid on the distinction between 
noble birth and noble character. The latter is found in 


those who have not degenerated from the family type. 
It is not possessed by the majority of the nobles, who 
are not raised above mediocrity (a different view is noted 
on p. 345). For generations vary, just like the harvests 
of good and bad years. Genius often sinks in posterity 
to wild passionateness, steadfastness to dull insensibility- 
For the rich, money becomes the standard of all value, 
and they hold everything purchasable. They are also 
inclined to self-importance, and do not care to put any 
constraint upon themselves, because they see that in any 
case their taste and their behaviour receive applause and 
set the fashion. " Beatific unintelligence " is the short 
phrase in which the character of the rich man is sum- 
marized. At the same time, it is admitted that these un- 
lovely features belong less to old and hereditary wealth than 
to the parvenu, who may be described as " not brought up 
to riches." The possessor of political power shares many 
characteristics with the wealthy man ; in other respects, 
he is superior. He is more a lover of honour, manlier, 
more steadfast and serious, — for this reason if for no 
other, that he stands continually in the light of publicity. 
Recognition is given to the fact that success of all kinds 
predisposes to pride and self-conceit ; but to this remark 
another is added which somewhat surprises us moderns : 
the fortunate love the gods and trust in them because of 
the benefits they have received from fate. 



aristotle and rhetoric. 

(Continuation and Conclusion.) 

I. After this interlude, borrowed from descriptive ethics, 
the author returns to the main ingredient in rhetoric, the 
dialectical element. The two chief means of proof, the 
example and the enthymeme, are divided into their sepa- 
rate species. The simile and the animal-fable are dis- 
tinguished from the " example " in the narrower sense, 
which consists of an appeal to real occurrences. The 
sentence or maxim appears as a particular variety of 
enthymeme ; it is most effective when it carries its justifica- 
tion in itself. Sententious speech is most becoming in the 
elderly, who draw from the stock of their own experience. 
Nor need the orator be afraid of commonplaces which 
express convictions held by all. But, on the other hand, 
it is also legitimate to contradict widespread opinions, 
even those embodied in proverbs and maxims, if by this 
means the orator can gain sharpness in characterizations or 
produce an effect of pathos. Thus a speaker may exclaim : 
" Even the saying, ' Nothing in excess,' is unprofitable, for 
one cannot hate the bad too much." But the chief use of 
the maxim is the favourable light in which it displays the 
speaker ; utterances of a noble kind cause him to appear 

Enthymemes should not be far-fetched or of too great 
generality. This is the reason why the less well-educated 
— for whom this limitation is not a matter of troublesome 
observance — often speak before the people more convinc- 
ingly than their superiors in education. One of the modes 
of proof is the evidence from contraries. For example : " If 


the war is responsible for the present evils, peace must be 
well fitted to repair them." A second argument rests on 
the more or less, e.g. : " If a man beat his own father, how 
should he refrain from beating his fellow-man ? " Another 
method rests on division and consequent eliminations. 
Thus : " There are three motives for wrong-doing ; two of 
these are excluded by the circumstances of the case ; the 
third is not even asserted by the accuser." At another 
time again the pleader will appeal to a judgment pre- 
viously delivered on the same or a similar matter, or one 
of contrary character. This judgment, if possible, should 
be one which was arrived at unanimously, by a large 
majority, by persons of acknowledged authority, or even 
by the gods themselves. An illustrative example is taken 
from a poem of Sappho : " Death is an evil ; if it had not 
been, why should the gods have reserved immortality for 
themselves } " Sometimes two inductions bearing on the 
same subject lead to opposite conclusions. Thus, one may 
sometimes warn men against education because of the 
disfavour which it brings ; at another time recommend it 
because wisdom is its fruit. To this place belongs the 
general advice, out of all possible suppositions to choose 
always that which best serves our ends. There is some- 
thing disconcerting in a piece of dialectical audacity like 
the following. From the very incredibility of a statement 
we may deduce its actual truth, by asking : " How, if it 
were not true, could any one have come to make so im- 
probable a statement ? " Wc may quote one observation 
which shows great psychological refinement. The processes 
of proof, it is said, which win the loudest applause are those 
of which the purpose is surmised from the beginning, and 
the conclusion approached step by step, so that before it is 
explicitly stated it has won the full assent of the audience. 
The effect of such a method, we may add, is that the 
tension is kept up to the end, and the well-prepared solu- 
tion is reached at the last without difficulty. At the same 
time, as Aristotle himself remarks, the self-esteem of the 
hearer is flattered by the pleasant consciousness of his 
perspicacity in anticipating the conclusion. 


2. After the separate discussion of all these sham proofs, 
there comes a thorough treatment of fallacious enthymemes, 
which, it is said, must exist by the same necessity as 
the corresponding syllogistic fallacies. As the nature of the 
case exacts, there are here numerous reminiscences of the 
book " On Sophistic Refutations " (cf. p. 45). A lengthy 
exposition is devoted to the misuse of linguistic forms, as 
well as to that of forms of inference, homonymy and the like. 
A particularly copious source of deception is said to be the 
joining of what is separate and the separation of what is 
joined. Each of these aids to deception is illustrated by an 
interesting example. The rhetorician Polycrates — -perhaps 
in his pamphlet against Socrates (cf. Vol. II. p. 114) — 
exalted the democratic leader Thrasybulus at the expense 
of other heroes of liberty by reasoning (as we may expand 
Aristotle's hint) somewhat as follows : " A overthrew this 
tyrant, B that, C a third ; each of these, therefore, has 
been held in the highest honour by his fellow-citizens. 
What honour, then, is due to him who wrested the supreme 
power from no fewer than thirty tyrants t " Thus it was 
made to seem as if not one act of liberation only, as was 
really the case, but a great number of them, had here to 
be considered. Aristotle's friend and favourite pupil, 
Theodectes (cf. p. 415), pursued the opposite course in his 
tragedy " Orestes ; " for he justified the act of Orestes in 
killing his mother by combining two propositions, each un- 
assailable in itself. " The murderess of a husband deserves 
death," and " It is the son's part to avenge his father." 
By setting the two propositions side by side, the illusion 
was created that the right of Orestes to kill his mother 
Clytaemnestra was hereby placed beyond doubt. There 
follow instances of false generalizations and illicit conver- 
sion, as well as of temporal succession represented as 
causal connexion (pos^ hoc, ergo propter hoc). The example 
adduced in illustration is significant of our philosopher's 
political attitude. He tells us that Demades, a politician 
friendly to the Macedonian cause, had laid on the policy of 
Demosthenes the responsibility for all the ensuing evils, 
and so had confused the "after" with the " because." If, 


as has been recently maintained, Aristotle had been a 
partisan of Philip, he would certainly not have undertaken 
to invalidate the charge brought against this king's chief 
opponent, Demosthenes. Another error mentioned is the 
confusion of the absolute with the relative. Among the 
examples of this appears the misuse of the notion of 
probability, which is apprehended sometimes in a narrower 
and sometimes in a wider sense, the more so as the 
corresponding Greek word is frequently used to mean what 
having regard to a restricted circle of causes is natural or 
normal. By taking the two meanings as one, it would be 
possible to prove even the identity of the probable with the 
improbable. Aristotle quotes a pleasing couple of lines 
from the tragic poet Agathon (cf. Vol. II. p. 383, seq.) — 

" This is the most improbable of all, 
That naught improbable should never hap." 

Here, as Aristotle rightly thinks, there is no contradic- 
tion. The word " improbable " is used in a double mean- 
ing ; and the import of the lines, as we may add, is simply 
this : " It is matter of daily experience that many things 
happen which we are not led to expect, owing to our 
imperfect knowledge of causes and particularly of their 

We pass over a section of no great importance relating 
to "solutions and confutations," as also the remarks on 
" exaggerating and extenuating." These chapters amount 
to no more than this, that the modes of proof in question 
(which clearly had filled much space in the older hand- 
books) have in common not so much a particular nature 
as a particular purpose. 

3. The third book of the " Rhetoric " is principally 
devoted to the more external elements of this art — diction 
and arrangement. In dealing but briefly with these we 
do not offend against the author's intentions ; for he placed 
the matter of speeches far above their form, and described 
the care which is expended on the latter as almost a 
necessary evil. 

The art of delivery, as being the most external ele- 
ment, is assigned to the lowest place in words like those 


applied in the " Poetics " to the scenic apparatus of the 
drama. " Diction," too, ought, in strictness, to aim merely 
at preserving complete neutrality, "equally remote from 
pleasurable and painful impressions," in an exposition 
based on reasonings. We note, by the way, that a 
growing preponderance of substance over form passes 
with our philosopher almost for a law of literary develop- 
ment. The metre of tragedy had advanced from the 
stately and pretentious trochee to the iambus with its 
nearer approach to the language of conversation ; its style 
of expression similarly showed a constantly increasing 
preference for the ordinary ; and prose diverged more and 
more from poetry. The chief merits of diction, Aristotle 
continues, are clearness and appropriateness. Great caution 
is needed in attempts to ennoble the expression ; the 
speaker must not allow his purpose to become manifest, 
he must avoid every trace of affectation, and he must be 
on his guard whenever he rises above the every-day level. 
Metaphor alone among the adornments of speech is 
tolerated in prose. There are continual references to 
the " Poetics," to which supplementary additions are now 
made, one, for example, on beauty of sound, a subject 
passed over in the earlier work. The treatment of the 
frigid brings before us in striking manner the difference 
between ancient and modern taste. As an instance of a 
far-fetched and therefore frigid metaphor, Aristotle quotes 
an expression of Alcidamas which is quite consonant with 
modern feeling. This orator had called the " Odyssey " " a 
fair mirror of human life." We are not entitled on this 
account to charge Aristotle or his contemporaries with 
weakness or dulness of imagination. Quite the contrary. 
If they found an audacity ill befitting prose in words 
which produce no such impression on us, it was precisely 
because they took figurative language more seriously, 
because they had a keener feeling for metaphors, these 
not yet having reached that condition of a use-worn 
currency which is so common among metaphors now. 

After the section on clearness and a few remarks 
relating to punctuation and syntax, there follows a 

VOL. IV. 2 G 


discussion on the weight or effectiveness of language. 
Some subtle observations may here be found concerning 
the cases where the name of a thing is to be preferred to a 
description of it, or vice versd, and those in which either the 
negative or the positive mode of expression is the better. 
The significant hint is here dropped that the mere negative 
opens wider perspectives to the imagination and stimulates 
it to heightened activity. 

4. The section on appropriateness of language contains 
much that for us is self-evident, but also not a few remarks 
which reach greater depths. Thus we receive the counsel, 
not a little surprising at first, "not to employ all the 
consistent means of expression simultaneously." We should 
rather have expected the opposite. But in reality the 
problem is to hit the medium between two equally dangerous 
extremes. If a man utters severe words with a soft voice 
and gentle mien, this want of harmony raises doubts as to 
the genuineness of the emotion. Aristotle by no means fails 
to recognize this. He points out the danger ; but he warns 
us much more emphatically against the opposite fault, 
against the too exact agreement of word, voice, and gesture. 
The purpose becomes too manifest, and all belief in the 
speaker's artlessness disappears. The orator, truly, should 
not be a bad actor, but on no account must he be too 
good a one. The precepts regarding rhythm are con- 
ceived in a similar spirit. If the speech were actually in 
metre, the obvious artifice would injure its credibility ; at 
the same time, the attention of the hearer would be too 
much diverted from the matter in hand. Want of rhythm 
at the other extreme does not allow the structure of the 
speech to appear in sufficient prominence, and makes it 
unpleasing as well as obscure. Rhythm, therefore, should 
not be rigorously uniform, and should only be employed 

5. The points of view now touched upon and the 
examples adduced in illustration present an abundance 
and variety which defy summarization. Besides orators 
properly so called, among whom Isocrates is referred to 
with special frequency, in spite of the old antagonism 


(cf, pp. 20, 24, and 303), prose writers and poets of every 
kind receive attention. For Aristotle has now enlarged his 
survey, and made literary expression in the widest sense 
the object of his study. He distinguishes the old co-or- 
dinating or paratactic style (used by Herodotus) from 
the more advanced periodic form of composition. He 
touches on the economy of breath and warns against too 
long and too short periods, accompanying the second 
warning with a striking comparison (the unexpectedly early 
close acts like the sudden arrest of a movement which 
jerks one forward). Reference is made to enjambement^ 
the carrying on of a sentence from one line of verse into 
the next ; and the practice is condemned in cases where the 
first line, taken alone, gives a complete sense, especially 
when this is misleading. Antithesis is praised because 
when two contraries are placed in immediate neighbour- 
hood, they stand out against each other in the clearest 
and strongest relief. Attention is also given to the figures 
named after the rhetorician Gorgias, such as the connecting 
of the members of a sentence by the use of identical 
syllables or similar sounds, together with other artifices of 
like nature. 

" Witty and popular sayings " give occasion for a closer 
consideration of images and comparisons. A starting-point 
is supplied by the principle that "easy learning is by 
nature pleasant to all." This result is often obtained by 
the use of an expression not literally applicable to its 
object. Thus a line of the " Odyssey " speaks of old age as 
" stubble ; " the comparison leads the mind to the common 
element in the two cases ; in both there is something past 
its flowering-time. Vividness, that most desirable quality 
in language, is obtained chiefly by speaking of lifeless 
things as though they had soul ; here again Homer is the 
unattainable model. At this point we are surprised by 
an omission. A line, perhaps the most picturesque in all 
Homer — 

" Back with a thunderous clatter leapt plainward the treacherous 

is quoted without a word of reference to the sound-painting. 


There is much aptness (and some unconscious self-praise) 
in a passing remark to the effect that acuteness of per- 
ception nowhere reveals itself more clearly than in the 
discovery of hidden resemblances. This great gift, he tells 
us, operates " as in science " (we recall the feats of a 
Newton or a Franklin), so also in style " by the formation 
of happy metaphors." Mention is made and explanations 
given of the pleasure derived from well-constructed riddles, 
from successful parodies, from the witty employment of the 
different meanings borne by a single word, and from 
felicitous exaggerations. 

6. From the general, Aristotle turns to the particular — 
that is, to the different modes of employing language, and 
the demands which may be made on each. The written 
communication of thought is described as the " most 
accurate " of all, — a judgment which calls to the mind 
Bacon's saying that " writing makes a precise man." But 
the same kind of matter, delivered orally, often seems curt 
and thin ; while the productions of the orator, when read, 
easily create an impression of amateurishness and banality. 
Some excellent remarks follow on the inner connexion 
between figures of speech and declamatory delivery. One 
amusing example may be quoted. Repetitions are rightly 
avoided in prose ; but in poetry, especially in comedy, they 
have their place. We know the fondness of the ancients 
for searching out inventors (cf. Vol. I. pp. 389 seq?). This 
practice, or the abuse of it, was very amusingly satirized 
in a comedy by Anaxandrides, entitled, " Old Man's 
Folly." That hero of civilization, Palamedes, the supposed 
" inventor " of the alphabet, of the game of draughts, of 
arithmetic, and so forth, was here coupled with Rhada- 
manthys, the son of Zeus, and all imaginable trifles 
ascribed to them as inventions. One line, for example, 
ran thus — 

" Parasite's antics, invented by Palamede and Rhadamanthys." 

The last words clearly formed the refrain of a long 
scries of lines, in which the contrast between the trivial 
content and the solemn ending produced the most 


ludicrous effect, especially in the mouth of the actor Phile- 
mon. There is a noteworthy comparison between speeches 
addressed to the people and decorative painting. In both 
cases — this is Aristotle's thought — crude effects are sought ; 
refinement is not only a superfluity, but a disadvantage. 
On the other hand, the language of the display-oration, 
which is intended to be read aloud, makes the nearest 
approach to written style ; next after it comes the forensic 

7. The close of the work deals with the component 
parts of a speech, in multiplying which, it is said, earlier 
writers have gone too far. In reality, a speech has only 
two main parts — one in which the orator states his case, 
the other in which he makes it good ; just as in mathe- 
matics we have first the enunciation, then the proof Still, 
Aristotle so far follows the traditional practice as to dis- 
tinguish, in some cases but not all, four main parts of a 
speech, namely, " prelude, statement, argument, epilogue ; " 
all these receive exhaustive treatment. Here again there 
are several excursions from the field of rhetoric proper 
into that of exposition in general, including even its 
poetical forms. 

The chief task to be fulfilled by the prelude or 
introduction is that of disclosing the purpose of the speech. 
The man who is defending himself must be at pains to 
clear away suspicions right at the beginning of his speech, 
in order to obtain a free course for the remainder of it ; 
the accuser, on the contrary, makes the corresponding effort 
at the end, in order that he may leave his hearers with the 
desired impression fresh in their minds. The speaker's 
task is sometimes to bring his hearers into a benevolent 
mood, sometimes to arouse their indignation ; often, too, 
he will seek to capture their attention — or to divert it. 
This last will be his endeavour in those cases where the 
speaker necessarily desires that his public should " attend 
to anything in the world rather than the matter in hand." 
According to the purpose of the moment, the orator will 
represent the theme of his discourse as important, as 
affecting the interests of his audience, as astonishing, as 


agreeable (for all this attracts attention), or, on the other 
hand as trivial, as foreign to their interests, as of no 
importance, or as painful. This procedure, doubtless, is 
wanting in objectivity and only suited to inferior hearers. 
But — we must add mentally — such are the majority of 
hearers, and the author of this guide to rhetoric is bound to 
accommodate himself to the demands of actual life. 

Fundamental importance belongs to an excursus on the 
arousing and the rebutting of suspicion. The chief points 
of view connected with the second of these tasks are the 
following. The defender may contest the alleged facts, — he 
may admit the action but deny its injuriousness absolute 
or relative, its magnitude, its illegality, or its dishonourable- 
ness ; or, again, admitting either of these last qualities, he 
may deny the degree assigned to it by the accusation. Then, 
too, while allowing that an action was injurious, one may 
maintain that it was morally excellent. The action may 
also be excused as an oversight, or as having been un- 
avoidable. One may disclaim a malicious purpose, or 
explain the evil consequence as due to chance (this reminds 
us of the precisely contrary recommendation in the case of 
panegyric ; cf p. 427). Yet another kind of situation is pre- 
sented when the accuser himself, or persons in close relation 
to him, are now or have been formerly involved in a similar 
action, or if a similar entanglement affects others whose 
innocence is questioned by none. Or, again, cases may be 
turned to account in which accusations brought by the same 
person have proved groundless, or in which, without any 
charge being raised, similar suspicion has lighted on some 
one whose guiltlessness afterwards became manifest. Appeal 
may be made to a verdict already given (cf. p. 446), some- 
what as was done by Euripides, who recalled the prize 
awarded to his drama "Hippolytus" when taken to task 
for the line contained in it: "My tongue hath sworn it, yet 
my mind is free." Among the artifices supplied for the 
use of accusers there is one which reminds us of Pope's 
" to damn by faint praise." One may begin by a long 
eulogy and then add an expression of censure which, though 
short, is decisive on the matter in hand ; or one may praise 


something trivial at great length, but at the same time 
condemn in a few words an action of much importance. 
With such refinements of insidiousness the limits of Aris- 
totle's indulgence are reached, and these, at any rate, are 
not described without a word of severe reprobation. 

8. We pass over the less characteristic remarks on the 
narrative portion of a speech, and from the following 
section, which deals with demonstration or argument, we 
single out the treatment of one particular rhetorical artifice, 
the question. This, it is said, may be employed most 
successfully in cases where the opponent has already con- 
ceded so much that it needs but the additional thrust of a 
question to destroy the tenability of his position. One of 
the chief uses of a question is to entangle the opponent in 
contradictions or to force him into paradox. Another case 
is that in which the only answer that can be given is of the 
form " yes and no " — " in one sense, yes ; in another, no." 
The audience then begins to murmur, for they take the 
answer to be an evasion due to perplexity. Now, cautiously 
limited judgments of the kind referred to are unusually 
frequent in the writings of Aristotle himself, and are not a 
little characteri.stic of his qualities as a thinker (cf p. 58). 
It is thus well worthy of note how confidently he dis- 
tinguishes the strength of himself and the elite who form 
his public from the " weakness of the (average) hearer." 
It is his own favourite mode of expression, which he advises 
the litigant to suggest to his opponent, in order that the 
latter may be tripped up by its use. 

In answering questions put by the other side, it is 
necessary to point out at once the double meaning of 
ambiguous expressions, and to resolve, in the answer itself, 
the contradiction in which the antagonist is seeking to 
entangle us. If the opponent puts an inference adverse to 
our case into the form of a question which we cannot avoid 
answering affirmatively, we should insert in our reply words 
serving for our justification. Suppose a series of hostile 
questions has forced us to answer "yes " to the final query: 
" Have you, then, done what was evil 1 " Our assent will 
be given with the immediate addition of a qualification ; 


" for it was the lesser evil of the two." Passing from this 
dialectic of question and answer, the author goes on to the 
use which may be made of the ludicrous. He quotes with 
approval the advice of Gorgias, to counter the opponent's 
earnest with jest and his jest with earnest. 

The epilogue, the discussion of which forms the con- 
clusion of the work itself, is divided into four parts. Its 
purpose is, firstly, to dispose the audience favourably 
towards the speaker, unfavourably towards his opponent 
(the author once more sets a part, the forensic speech, in 
the place of the whole) ; secondly, to raise or lower the 
importance of the subject-matter; thirdly, to inspire the 
audience with the desired emotions ; fourthly, to recapitu- 
late the contents of the whole speech. By an ingenious 
device Aristotle contrives to end the whole lecture-course 
with a sentence quoted as an example of a good conclusion 
to a speech : " I have spoken ; you have heard ; you have the 
matter — judge ! " This veiled challenge, like the uncon- 
cealed one at the end of the logical course (cf. p. 31), was 
doubtless answered with a salvo of applause. 

9. We have treated the " Rhetoric " with greater fulness 
than has hitherto been customary. This is in accord 
with the main point of view which has governed our present- 
ment of Aristotle's teachings in general. We regard the 
Stagirite as pre-eminently a classifier and encyclopaedist, 
as a thinker who surveyed and divided the world of pheno- 
mena in all its breadth, the physical province as well as 
the psychical. We have followed him through his wide 
journeyings with steps now swifter, now slower, as the 
subject invited to a longer or shorter stay. There are 
departments in which Aristotle's work is now wholly 
obsolete, his results long ago superseded, his difficulties 
finally settled. We have necessarily given less space to 
these than to other fields of research in which as yet there 
is no similar record of incontestable progress. Who would 
care to assert that Aristotle's treatment of ethical and 
political questions has been eclipsed and supplanted by 
modern investigations in the same way as, say, his physics 
or his physiology ? For assigning the " Rhetoric " to the 


second of these groups rather than to the first, we have 
sufficient warrant in the one fact that the art of oratory 
has practically disappeared from the list of subjects treated 
by modern writers. 

It is true that a first glance at the three books of the 
" Rhetoric " may easily provoke an unfavourable judg- 
ment. The reader is not unlikely to find the work an 
agglomerate of inwardly unconnected parts rather than an 
organic structure. A great deal of dialectic, some politics, 
a little grammar and jurisprudence, a section on style, and 
considerable borrowings from descriptive ethics and psy- 
chology — one asks vainly at first what inner bond unites 
all these disparate elements into a whole ? The thought 
readily suggests itself that considerations of an external 
order were mainly responsible for this so surprising con- 
junction of the dissimilar. Aristotle — the reader may 
say — wished to realize that unattainable ideal of a new 
rhetoric which was set forth in Plato's " Phasdrus " (cf. 
p. 421) ; he also wished to outbid those predecessors of 
his for whom he felt so little esteem. He believed that 
this double purpose would be achieved if, without omitting 
an account of the old tricks and artifices, he took pains to 
ennoble his collection of tliem by incorporating in it con- 
siderable sections taken from other and more highly 
esteemed provinces of knowledge. This judgment, how- 
ever, would be far from just, though there is certainly a 
grain of truth in it. The author of the "Rhetoric" found 
himself in a peculiarly difficult position. Between his 
ideal and the reality which he could not ignore there 
yawned a wide gulf. We have noted his old complaint 
that the labour bestowed on diction is little more than a 
necessary evil ; we remember his contention that in the 
council-chamber, as in the law-court, the only justifiable 
form of exposition is that which is strictly objective, which 
relies entirely on argument, and not at all on the rousing 
of emotion. And yet he investigates thoroughly, and 
treats exhaustively, all these aids to rhetoric, and many 
others which he himself despises. We may see here the 
co-operation of two powerful factors. For the orator in 


the popular assembly and before the tribunal, all those 
resources were necessary which the philosopher, as such, 
contemned or even repudiated. If his lecture-hall was 
not to remain empty, his text-book unread, he was com- 
pelled to have regard to what men are, not to what they 
ought to be. 

But the really decisive factor was the second : the 
nature of Aristotle's mind. To one of his mental con- 
stitution it was an imperative necessity to sift and co- 
ordinate the whole body of knowledge accessible to him. 
Before this irresistible impulse all scruples were silent, or, 
to speak more accurately, disappeared temporarily from 
his range of vision. It is thus that we are to understand 
those instructions in deceit on which, so far as I can see, 
the historians have greatly neglected to comment (cf. p. 54). 
And yet there are numerous passages in the " Rhetoric " 
where we are advised to employ on every occasion the mode 
of exposition suited to our particular case, where we are 
bidden to " use " this artifice, to " choose " that advocate's 
trick. It is only in one quite isolated case (really an 
exception of the kind which proves the rule) that the 
description of a particularly treacherous method of attack 
is followed by a word of censure : " These are at once the 
cleverest and the most unjust" practices (cf. p. 455). In 
by far the greater proportion of cases Aristotle's procedure 
is neither moral nor immoral, but unmoral. As long as 
he is busy with these matters, his conscience does not 
come into play ; he is submerged in the stream of dialectic ; 
he sets himself without reservation in the place of the 
accuser or defendant, the attorney or the party-man, and 
inquires only into the greater or less effectiveness of 
rhetorical expedients, not at all into their greater or less 
moral justifiability. He marshals and classifies this material 
just like that of any other department of knowledge. 

Yet another consequence followed from the excessive 
strength of the dialectical impulse. The framer of logical 
divisions strives first and foremost to make his divisions 
complete, without regard to the degree of interest or 
importance which attaches to this or that term of the 


classification. The " Rhetoric," as a result, is not free 
from sections poor in content, from lengthily developed 
truisms. As a counterpoise to these, and as a refreshing 
interlude between the chapters of dialectic and eristic, we 
have the brilliant portions taken from descriptive psychology 
and ethics, which found in the " Rhetoric " not, indeed, the 
only possible place, but still one by no means unsuited to 
them. If politics, the principal field for the employment 
of rhetoric, is not left wholly untouched, this need surprise 
us as little as the fact that the author was at no pains to 
observe strictly the boundary between the rhetorical form 
of exposition and others, namely, prose, and sometimes 
even poetical, writing. When we finally call attention once 
more to the very intelligible desire of the great encyclo- 
paedist to make provision for subjects as yet little developed 
and therefore unfitted for independent expositions — such 
subjects as the theory of language or of criminal law — by 
giving them harbourage within the domain of a more 
advanced branch of knowledge (cf. pp. 417 and 432), we have 
said enough to defend the " Rhetoric " against the charges 
to which a superficial consideration of it may easily give 

10. Thus once again we recognize the man who, in spite 
of his leaning to eristic over-subtlety, and in spite of many 
a relapse into primitive apriorism, is yet entitled to the 
highest honour, not only as the lavisher of untold treasures 
of knowledge, but still more as the marshal before whose 
baton the myriad facts in all provinces of nature and mental 
life range themselves of their own accord, into orderly 
ranks and compact battalions. That vast mass of knowledge, 
it is true, was on the verge of bursting the bonds which 
hitherto had held it together. From the parent stock of 
general knowledge one branch after another is shortly to 
become severed. Philosophy, in the sense which we have 
been accustomed to attach to this word, is on the point of 
extinction. Instead of one universal science, we shall now 
find, on the one hand the body of special sciences, on the 
other "philosophy" in the modern sense, which has now 
become a religion for the educated. Even the successors 


of Aristotle were soon to set about the partition of his 
kingdom, just as the empire of his pupil, Alexander, was 
shared among the Diadochi. But the figure of the universal 
researcher and thinker meets us yet once more in the person 
of Theophrastus, the man who was nominated director of 
the Peripatos by its founder and chosen by him for his 




I. The life of Theophrastus is soon told. Born between 
372 and 370, the son of a well-to-do fuller, he early left 
his native island of Lesbos for Athens, where he was not 
too late to hear the aged Plato, and where in Plato's school 
he made the acquaintance of Aristotle. He seems to have 
followed the latter to Macedonia ; at any rate, after the 
Stagirite's return to Athens, he was bound to him by the 
closest ties of common life and work. The reader has 
already learnt (pp. 25 and 32) that he was chosen by 
Aristotle to succeed him in the headship of his school, 
and made the heir to his collection of books. As a further 
legacy, the master also offered him his daughter's hand, 
and entrusted him with the education of his son. There 
were certain works in the attribution of which tradition 
fluctuated between the teacher and the pupil. The latter, 
indeed, might well have published one or another item 
in the collection left behind by Aristotle ; he might also 
have elaborated and continued what the teacher had merely 
sketched out. He is said to have called himself a " man 
of the school." His whole existence was, in fact, absorbed 
in study, in the giving of oral and written instruction. 
He was not without honour in his day. When he died 
at the age of eighty-five, the whole of the Athenian people 
followed his bier ; and foreign potentates, the first Ptolemies 
and Antipater's son Cassandrus, also showed their high 
regard for him. It is possible that, indirectly, he exerted 
some influence on public affairs, especially in the ten years 
(317-307) during which his friend and pupil, Demetrius 
of Phalerum, guided the helm of the State, having been 


chosen by the Athenians as their regent and confirmed 
by Cassandrus, For in the government of Demetrius — 
who was author as well as statesman, and who had raised 
himself from the status of a freed man by his ability and 
adroitness — there are several traces of Peripatetic influence. 
His legislation relating to luxury, the control which he 
sought to exercise over the private lives of the rich, the 
assumption by the State of burdensome services, such as 
the Choregia — all these remind us of proposals and hints put 
forward by Aristotle (cf. pp. 365, 366, and 376). The same 
remark applies to the fundamental tendency of his policy, 
which was directed towards the reconciliation of party and 
class antagonisms, and towards the upraising of the general 
condition of the people. 

2. Little as Theophrastus took part in public life, he 
was yet on one occasion required to face a jury. It was 
probably his friendly relations with foreign princes that 
moved the fiery patriot, Hagnonides, to assail him with 
the weapon so much in favour against philosophers — a 
charge of impiety. This was almost certainly in the year 
319 or 318, during the short authority of the newly-restored 
democracy. But the accuser met with an ignominious 
fiasco. Theophrastus was acquitted, and by so over- 
whelming a majority that Hagnonides barely escaped the 
fine of a thousand drachmae. For the Attic law imposed 
this penalty on the frivolous accuser — that is, on one who 
failed to win to his side a fifth of the votes. More im- 
portance attached to a second conflict with the civil power 
in which Theophrastus was involved, but this time not 
alone. Sophocles, the son of Amphiclides, had proposed 
and carried a law by which the heads of the philosophers' 
schools were required to seek authorization of their position 
from the council and the people. This measure, in our 
opinion, was not inspired by party feeling. It applied 
to all schools without distinction — to the Academy, whose 
sympathies were then entirely democratic, as well as to 
the Peripatos, which was suspected of Macedonian leanings, 
l^ut the leaders of the philosophic schools had no mind 
to consent to any such diminution of their independence. 


With one accord they raised an emphatic protest against 
the demand made upon them by leaving the city— no 
doubt at the head of their pupils. A few months passed, 
and then, as so often at Athens, public feeling turned 
completely round. In this case it is possible that injury 
to the material interests of the citizens co-operated with 
more ideal considerations. The charge of illegality, the 
consequences of which were very severe {cf. Vol. II. p. 53), 
was brought against Sophocles. Intelligibly enough the 
accuser, Philo, belonged to one of the philosophers' schools, 
and indeed to that which stood highest among them in 
point of numbers and reputation — the school founded by 
Aristotle. But now party-politics came into play. The 
accusation had given the cue to the defence, which now 
became a counter-attack. Among the helpers of the 
accused, the first place was held by Demochares, the son 
of a cousin of Demosthenes, and heir to the orator's tradi- 
tions. This hot-blooded and indefatigable champion of 
the radical-national party poured out the vials of his wrath, 
mingling together truth and falsehood after the manner 
so common in the fierce conflict of factions, both on 
Aristotle and on certain other pupils of Plato, such as 
Chaeron, the tyrant of Pellene. But violent as was his 
invective, it failed of its effect. Sophocles — we know not 
on what technical ground — was condemned to a fine of five 
talents, the law enacting State-control was declared invalid, 
and the heads of the schools were invited to return from 
the exile into which they had retired. 

3. Theophrastus was the incarnate ideal of the philo- 
sophic disciple. Dutiful, patient, unwearied, gifted with 
a power of work bordering on the fabulous, he accom- 
panied the Stagirite through the whole range of his 
universal research. He helped him to collect his vast 
and varied stock of materials ; he continued and brought 
to a conclusion what the master had begun or outlined, 
he filled the gaps which he had left. But with all this 
faithful devotion, he was anything but a blind follower. 
How highly the critical faculty was developed in Theo- 
phrastus may be learnt merely from the fragments of that 


work by which he made himself the forerunner of all 
historians of philosophy. The doctrines of the older sages 
were treated by him, partly in monographs, but chiefly in 
a comprehensive work of eighteen books. Beginning with 
Thales, and extending to Plato and Xenocrates, this work 
passed in review the " Opinions on Physics " (in the wide 
sense, including even psychology) which had been held by 
former thinkers. Numerous small fragments of this history 
remain to us, and one of greater extent " On Sense- Percep- 
tion." We learn from this last that the work was doxo- 
graphic in its arrangement (cf. Vol. I. p. 530). At the same 
time, the whole of the fragments show us that the work was 
permeated with criticism from beginning to end — a point 
on which we feel constrained to dwell for a moment. 

To write the history of science without regard to the 
personal convictions of the writer seems to us an impossi- 
bility. In this as in other provinces we hold the so-called 
objective writing of history to be both an illusion, and a 
perverted ideal. Freedom from partiality and prejudice, 
the most sincere and the most earnest endeavour to do full 
justice to views even the most divergent from our own — 
these, it is true, are indispensable requisites for every 
historical performance of real value. But it is also neces- 
sary to have and to express an opinion of one's own on the 
subject concerned — necessary in the double sense of in- 
evitability and of needfulness. Without intensity of interest 
there can be no sustained study ; and if this does not lead 
to the formation of an independent judgment, all cannot be 
well with the intellectual capacity of the historian. On the 
other hand — and here we have more particularly in view the 
investigator into the history of philosophy — how can he who 
brings no opinion of his own to bear on the historical pro- 
cesses described by him do as much as separate with any 
certainty the trivial from the important, the transient from 
the abiding ? And yet this discrimination is the funda- 
mental condition for anything like adequate historical 
perspective. But, it may be replied, a narrative thus sub- 
jectively conditioned, and, therefore, also subjectively 
coloured, divests itself of all claim to permanence. No 


doubt it does, we answer ; this form of human activity can 
no more than any other escape the universal human destiny. 
But it escapes it least of all when the narrator aims at being 
a mere registering machine, in which he can never entirely 
succeed, or when he chooses one of the two alternatives 
which are alone open to him who renounces all critical treat- 
ment of his subject — when, that is to say, he either assumes 
the attitude of uncritical hero-worship, taking his author's 
position for his own without attempt at originality, or else, 
regarding his personal opinion as the only one tenable or 
possible, violently reads it into the works with which he 
deals. In the first case, the subject has not found its 
master ; in the second, it has found a tyrant. 

This digression has been somewhat lengthy ; but we 
felt constrained to pay tribute to the ancestor of all 
historians of philosophy by an attempt to put before our 
reader a just view of the dignity and value of the historico- 
critical method which he followed. We have paid him the 
still more emphatic tribute of taking this method for our 

4. Our attention has already been engaged by samples 
of the criticism which Theophrastus applied to the doctrines 
of the nature-philosophers (cf. Vol. I. pp. 376, 356). This 
criticism appears to possess the greatest significance in 
those cases where he tests the opinions of others by the 
standard not so much of what he deems their objective 
truth as of their inner consistency. Thus he believes him- 
self in a position to point out discrepancies inherent in the 
teaching both of Democritus and of Plato on the senses : 
" Each of them arrives at results which contradict his 
fundamental principles." In the case of Democritus this 
contradiction is said to consist in this, that having declared 
the sensible qualities (which we call secondary) to be 
merely subjective " affections," he yet refers them to 
primary or objective properties of the atoms (their size, 
form, and arrangement). This contradiction, it must be 
admitted, is more a matter of words than of substance 
(cf. Vol. I. p. 320). 

In our o[)inion one of the most baseless of Plato's 
VOL. IV. 2 H 


hypotheses is his false or "untrue pleasure" (cf. Vol. III. 
p. 190). Theophrastus clearly saw the perversity of this 
assumption ; but at the same time he pointed out the 
kernel of truth contained in it, namely, the distinction 
between normal and abnormal modes of feeling. In face 
of this boldness, this independent and penetrating judgment, 
we become interested to know how they were brought to 
bear upon the master's doctrines, and how the discipleship 
of Theophrastus was reconciled with them. At this point 
a truly remarkable spectacle is presented to us. 

The most faithful allegiance and sober, ever-watchful 
doubt meet us in a combination which at first strikes us 
as wholly enigmatical. We can hardly read a dozen lines 
of Theophrastus' philosophical writings without lighting 
upon Aristotelian thoughts, indeed upon whole phrases and 
sentences borrowed from the Stagirite. And yet on almost 
every occasion when he confronts a main doctrine of his 
teacher, he gives expression to doubts and difficulties in